Numerous studies have documented African Americans communities face a disproportionate share of environmental and health threats. It is for this simple reason the Environmental Justice Movement was born some three decades ago—a national movement born fighting environmental racism. Millions of African Americans look to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for equal environmental protection they have been denied by their state environmental agencies, many of whom have a long and sordid history of protecting polluters over protecting residents who live in industrial “sacrifice zones.” A weakened federal EPA is a recipe for disaster. Rolling-back or gutting environmental regulations is a roadmap for more trips to the emergency room for many Americans who live on the fenceline with polluting industries. We must resist all efforts to dismantle EPA and our nation’s environmental protection apparatus as if our lives depend upon on it—and they do.
In 2016, we have an opportunity to commemorate and celebrate some important environmental justice milestones and work on finishing other struggles. The Flint water crisis unfolding today provides a textbook case for why we must build justice and equal protection into environmental decision making. It’s time to stand with communities endangered by environmental injustice and the principle of profit over people. Let’s make 2016 the year of justice.