NCA BLOG

Workshop: Putting Environmental Justice in the Fight for Clean Air

Photo of MVD workshop attendees

Holly Wilson/EPA; Cheryl Grabben/ODEQ; Dan Brown/EPA; Marylou Soscia/EPA; John Wasiutynski/Mult Co; Mary Peveto/NCA; Sheryl Stohs/EPA; Donna Silverberg/DS Consulting; Nicholas Caleb/NCA; Shalini Gupta/Center for Earth, Energy & Democracy; Kristie Ellickson/ Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; Akash Singh/NCA

On March 15, 2017 Neighbors for Clean Air partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to host a day-long workshop helping clean air partners  — community members, non-profit groups, and government agencies — work together to prioritize environmental justice in our clean air work, with a special focus on including the voices of those whose health is most directly and historically affected by dirty air.

You’ll find a Workshop Agenda here and we invite you to peruse some of the presentations from the day; we were honored with some very impressive thinkers on the topic!

In the near future we’ll be adding the US EPA’s report from the day, a “how to” document to guide clean air advocates, educators, administrators, and researchers as they work towards healthier air in Oregon. This report will serve as a supplement DEQ/OHA cleaner air Oregon technical workgroup report.

We will update this page as new information related to the workshop becomes available, so please check back!

GOOD NEWS: Community Groups Win Court Deadlines For Stronger Air Toxics Protections

On March 13, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) must finally address the need for stronger air toxics protections across the country.  Judge Tanya S. Chutkan found that EPA’s delay of many years to issue these rules violated the law and set prompt deadlines for action.  This decision marks a victory for the 9 community-based environmental and public health groups that filed suit to force EPA to fulfill its long-neglected duty to update air toxics standards to safeguard the public.

Exposure to hazardous air pollutants emitted by industries covered by this lawsuit can cause serious human health effects, including reproductive disorders and cancer.  Many major sources of industrial air pollution are located in areas where people are already overburdened with environmental contamination.

To protect people’s safety, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to perform reviews of the health and environmental hazards people near major industrial sources face from toxic air pollution and the pollution control developments available. As a result of these rulemakings, EPA must strengthen air standards as required to provide an ample margin of safety to protect public health and make sure no local communities are left behind as pollution reduction methods advance in some parts of the United States.  EPA is years overdue in fulfilling its legal duties to protect people from the 20 industrial sources of toxic air pollution covered by this lawsuit, including chemical companies, metals and plastics operations, and municipal landfills.

California Communities Against Toxics, Californians Against Waste Foundation, Coalition For A Safe Environment, Del Amo Action Committee, Desert Citizens Against Pollution, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Neighbors for Clean Air, and Ohio Citizen Action filed this suit in April 2015 against EPA for missing legally required deadlines to protect public health from toxic air pollution. The national environmental law organization Earthjustice represents them.

Now EPA must perform the mandatory Clean Air Act rulemakings on the schedule ordered by the court and update and strengthen the existing emission standards as necessary.

Nick Morales, Lead Attorney at Earthjustice is pleased to have these deadlines in place:

For years, EPA refused to do its job while each day people across the country were forced to breathe hazardous air pollution from industrial operations. Now that the Court has ordered hard deadlines for action, we look forward to urging EPA to strengthen the outdated toxic air pollution limits and require monitoring to reduce the toxic air communities are breathing.

 

Webinar for Women’s History Month: Women’s Role in the Fight for Environmental Justice

epa logoWe are pleased to let you know about this upcoming opportunity from the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) presents:

Webinar No. 8: Women’s History Month: Women’s Role in the Fight for Environmental Justice

Date: 03/22/2017
Time: 11:00am – 12:30pm Pacific;

To register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/womens-history-month-womens-role-in-the-fight-for-environmental-justice-tickets-31463559353

Description
In honor of Women’s History Month, the EJ IWG is focusing on the central role women have played in the environmental justice movement along with the challenges still facing them today. Since the inception of the EJ Movement in the US, women have played a critical role in advocating for overburdened and underserved communities. Women have led the way in organizing their communities, churches, and schools to improve public health and revitalize local neighborhoods. Given the essential contributions of women to the EJ movement, it is vital that environmental justice practitioners begin to articulate environmental inequalities that specifically impact women and develop interventions to effectively target women.

In this webinar, we will lift up pioneering women who helped establish environmental justice within the Environmental Protection Agency and provide a framework to begin to understand some of the challenges that are facing women in the context of environmental justice. The webinar will also highlight organizations that are carrying out projects aimed at providing resources, training, capacity building and other assistance to women. Additionally, the webinar will discuss the representation of women in environmental organizations that are making decisions that impact overburdened and underserved communities.

Subscribe to the EPA’s Environmental Justice Listserv (https://lists.epa.gov/read/all_forums/subscribe?name=epa-ej) to receive registration information for upcoming webinars and activities!

Access & Awareness Webinar Series

Established by Executive Order 12898, the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) comprises 17 federal agencies and White House Offices that work together to guide, support and enhance environmental justice and community-based activities. Check out the EJ IWG Webpage for more information.

The EJ IWG is hosting the Access & Awareness Webinar Series to provide public with access to the working group and to increase community awareness of federal agency environmental justice strategies and holistic community-based solutions to address environmental justice issues. This series will help the public gain a deeper understanding of how federal agencies are collaborating and what resources are available to anyone interested in improving the health, quality-of-life, and economic opportunities in overburdened communities.

Diesel Pollution Bill in Oregon: An Update

Diesel image Mult Cty CommissionersWe are excited to report that the first public hearing on the diesel pollution reduction bill (SB 1008) went very well! I testified (you can read my testimony here) along with some of our terrific partners who made a strong case for taking swift action to cut diesel engine pollution across Oregon.

On the day of the hearing, two Multnomah County Commissioners – emergency room doctor Sharon Meiren and Jessica Vega Pederson – authored an outstanding guest opinion piece in The Oregonian that I hope you will read and share with your network – here’s a link to it. They really make the public health case for solving this problem now.

Also, we want to highlight two clean air activists who also testified in the hearing, one about her son’s asthma (which of course is exacerbated by air pollution), the other to hand deliver 3,000 signatures from Oregonians all over the state asking our state legislature to take action on diesel engine pollution now. Haven’t signed yet? You still can! Just click here.

And finally, we invite you to engage in a little grassroots activism yourself! It’s simple:
  1. Grab three postcards (maybe with images of Oregon)
  2. Identify your state representatives if you don’t already know them by entering your address here.  Their mailing addresses in the state capitol will be included, but to make it easy, this one will work for all three: Name & Title, Oregon State Capitol, 900 Court Street NE, Salem, OR 97301.
  3. Write a note to your state representative, your state senator, and Governor Kate Brown, with a short message like this, but with your personal touch: “Please support SB 1008 to reduce diesel engine pollution in Oregon. We’ll never have clean, healthy air if you don’t. The vulnerable among us – children, the elderly, people with asthma, and people of color –  have suffered long enough.”

While we believe we can push this bill into a law this legislative session, we know we can’t do it alone. As is increasingly obvious these days, democracy is a sport, not an armchair. We invite you to get off the sidelines!

PS – If you’re the bill reading type or want to follow its progress through the session, here’s a link to it: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Measures/Overview/SB1008

 

Early March Clean Air eNews | Diesel Pollution, EJ Workshop + More

These days there is a rarely a dull moment in the fight for clean air. In this week’s eNews we write to let you know about two local diesel pollution events, two important people, and three chances to speak up for clean air. We hope you are energized by all that is going on – we are!
 
3 CLEAN AIR EVENTS: 1 PAST, 2 FUTURE, ALL IMPORTANT!
 
Past | Senate Hearing on Health Impacts of Diesel Pollution
The first hearing on our priority issue was held this past week in the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. It was an informational hearing (ie no public testimony) where lawmakers listened to expert, invited testimony about the harmful health impacts of diesel pollution. Two members of the five-person committee unfortunately did not attend: Senators Alan Olsen (R-Canby) and Herman Baertschriger (R-Grants Pass). The hearing audio will be available soon; listen here.
 
March 3-5th | Public Interest Environmental Law Conference
Every year in Eugene, environmental lawyers who work for the public interest gather in Eugene to learn, connect, and share resources so they can all return to their desks and fight the good fight a little smarter. This year, we are proud that our staff attorney Nick Caleb will be on a panel along with several colleagues from the impressive Crag Law Center of Portland to update folks about Oregon air law and regulations. If you’re not planning to attend, you can catch it all online. More here.
 
March 15th | Workshop: Putting Environmental Justice in the Fight for Clean Air
We are very pleased to be co-hosting an all-day workshop in Portland to bring clean air partners together to better understand and prioritize environmental justice in our work. We’ll meet from 9 AM to 4:30 PM on Wednesday, March 15th. Speakers include Charles Lee, Senior Policy Advisor, US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington D.C. (EPA). Mr. Lee is widely recognized as a true pioneer in the arena of environmental justice, as the principal author of the landmark report, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States.
 
2 NEW DIRECTORS
 
New Director of Oregon DEQ
We welcome Richard Whitman to lead the Oregon DEQ, an agency that is ripe for inspired leadership with a commitment to environmental health. Mr. Whitman has served as Interim Director since Pete Shepherd, another Interim Director, moved on October 2016. More here about his appointment. We are hopeful that the agency will live up to what Oregonians need and want from it – namely better protection of our environment and our health, which are forever intertwined. We will push hard for it to be sufficiently funded to successfully carry out its work.
 
Welcome, Scott Pruitt, incoming U.S. EPA Director
Well, OK, we’re not feeling very welcoming, actually. All evidence suggest that Mr. Pruitt is no friend of the environment. In fact, his history as Attorney General in Oklahoma shows he was quite opposed to the kind of environmental protections that are essential for public health. With Pruitt in place at the national level taking direction from the anti-regulation Trump White House, it’s clear that states’ roles in environmental protection just got more important. So, while we won’t ignore what’s happening in Washington, DC, we will continue to target our work here at home where there is plenty of room for improvement. Here’s some background on Mr. Pruitt and his potential impacts on Oregon’s environment.
3 CHANCES TO USE YOUR VOICE FOR CLEAN AIR!
 
1. March 8th | Attend the public hearing on a bill to cut diesel pollution
Next Wednesday, March 8th our legislators will open the doors for a public hearing on a bill that would once and for all get rid of the dirtiest diesel engines polluting Oregonians’ health. Let’s show the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources how many Oregonians want clean air, not dirty diesel pollution! We’re for clean engines and clean air! And together we CAN accomplish both.RSVP now! Email akash@whatsinourair.org. We’ll meet in the capitol rotunda at 2:45 PM.
 
2. Anytime | Tell your state representatives that you care about diesel pollution.
In this moment, if you don’t yet know who your state representatives are, it’s time! Just enter your address here to identify them, then ring them right up and let them know you support clean, healthy air and would like them to cut diesel emissions this session, thank you very much! Already know them, great! Remind them who you are and that you, too, care about healthy air for all Oregonians and urge them to take action to cut diesel emissions. This type of direct contact from you really, really matters.
 
3. March 23rd | Join the clean air group at the Clean Green Lobby Machine Day
Our great partners at the Oregon Conservation Network and Oregon League of Conservation Voters are co-hosting a lobby day for the environment later this month and we’ll be out strong for clean air. Can you join us? Find more info and how to signup right here.
Phew! That’s a lot going on, isn’t it? And while we know from personal experience that the fight for clean air is a marathon, not a sprint, right now we’re definitely doing some sprinting! Thanks for being along for the ride.