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.
Houston will be hosting three important environmental justice events during the first week of August. All of the meetings will address the disproportionate location of industrial polluting facilities and toxic dumping on low-income and people of color communities and the potential health effects. The Houston “petropolis” (with its no-zoning policy) provides a perfect case study for examining how environmental decision making over the years—with the absence of an equity and justice lens—placed low-wealth and people of color neighborhoods on the frontline of environmental assault and thus exposed them to elevated health risks. The Environmental Justice Movement has set a course to reverse and correct these past mistakes and prevent them from happening in the future.
Following the aftermath of the April 2013 ammonium nitrate explosion in West, Texas that killed 15 people, injured another 160 persons, and damaged or destroyed more than 150 buildings, President Obama signed Executive Order 13650 (EO). The EO outlines measures that can be taken by the federal government utilizing existing regulatory authority to enhance safety and security in coordination with chemical facility owners and operators.