After meeting with Gwen Keyes Fleming, the first African American to EPA Region 4 (which includes eight southern states, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and 6 Tribal Nations) on Wednesday November 10, more than three environmental justice, civil rights, faith, community based organizations, and leaders from polluted communities delivered an eleven-point " Call to Action " for Region 4 reform that demanded fundamental change, a new culture, and a new enforcement framework at EPA--one that actually protects the environment and public health. They also called for equal protection and equal enforcement of environmental laws, something that has been lacking in the southern states for decades; end to the collusion between EPA Region 4, state environmental agencies, and polluting industry;halt to the "look-the-other-way" approach that has been a trademark of Region 4 which has led to higher health costs and degraded environments; and bold leadership and an uncompromising dedication to equal protection, environmental justice, and public health as top priorities in the region.
The plan generally can be summarized in four words:transparency, accountability, justice, and trust. Working together with this shared vision and with impacted communities, the leaders are hopeful that the new region administrator can make environmental justice a top priority. The environmental justice leaders are eager to assist the new Region 4 administrator with designing and building support for transformational change in the region--change and improvements that will stop the pollution, illness, and harm that disproportionately plague low-income and people of color communities.
Many of the EJ leaders' recommendations to EPA Region 4 administrator are aligned with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law 2010 report, " Now is the Time: Environmental Injustice in the U.S. and Recommendations for Eliminating Disparities," a report presented to the Obama Administration and its various agencies, including the EPA and the Department of Justice. The report outlines recommendations on how the Administration can effectively utilize existing law to eliminate disparities in environmental protection and the agencies can fulfill their responsibilities under Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice In Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations," signed by President Bill Clinton more than sixteen years ago. The time is right and it's the right thing to do.