Request from EPA for public comment on a CONCEPT PAPER FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER - perfect for NEO

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 02/10/2011 - 11:34.


Environmental Justice Community Representative speaking at First White House Environmental Justice Forum

Please find below a fascinating request from the U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) OFFICE OF AIR AND RADIATION (OAR) for public comment on a CONCEPT PAPER FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER. The OAR is taking the lead in developing a learning center or institute for environmental justice community members to increase community awareness and understanding of environmental risks stemming from pollution and related environmental justice concerns. This effort will build communities’ capacity to participate in the protection of their air, water, and land resources. This represents Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has made one of EPA’s key priorities under her leadership.

Regarding the challenge being addressed... from Administrator Jackson, in releasing this concept paper for public input:

Many minority, low-income, and indigenous people have been historically underrepresented in environmental decision making, while at times experiencing higher levels of environmental pollution and other social and economic burdens that result in poorer health outcomes. Many members of these communities have not been able to participate effectively in environmental decision making in part because they lack the background and information they need for meaningful participation. As a result, EPA does not always benefit from important community input.

It is my strong belief Administrator Jackson's statement perfectly describes Northeast Ohio - these are the words that should have been said by Cleveland's Mayor Jackson, as citizen and community leader... for decades! These are the words citizens of Northeast Ohio must hear from our leaders for the future.

In Northeast Ohio: "Many minority, low-income, and indigenous people have been historically underrepresented in environmental decision making" - "experiencing higher levels of environmental pollution and other social and economic burdens that result in poorer health outcomes" - "members of these communities have not been able to participate effectively in environmental decision making in part because they lack the background and information they need for meaningful participation".

In full acknowledgement of all these realities in America - and certainly in Cleveland - EPA Administrator Jackson seeks environmental justice community VICTIMS' INPUT and offers us the opportunity for an Environmental Justice Community Learning Center or Institute to address our problems.

This new Agency priority challenges EPA to empower overburdened communities to take action to improve their health and environment. To address this challenge, EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) is taking the lead in developing a learning center or institute for environmental justice community members. The purpose of the center is to increase community awareness and understanding of environmental risks stemming from pollution and related environmental justice concerns. This effort will build communities’ capacity to participate in the protection of their air, water, and land resources. To become full partners in addressing the sources of pollution in their neighborhoods and communities, communities need help to understand complex environmental regulations and procedures; opportunities for public involvement; access to data and resources; assistance in navigating and participating in the regulatory process.

This announcement comes just weeks after I reported on realNEO that EPA Seeks Applicants for $1.2 Million in Environmental Justice Grants - Must Acknowledge Environmental Injustice to Apply, offering funds to empower overburdened communities to take action to improve their health and environment. I proposed Northeast Ohio pursue those funds, to leverage $4.5 million in HUD funding the region has already been awarded to address the environmental injustice caused by lead poisoning here, as well:

The EPA Environmental Justice grants announced below would fit nicely with lead poisoning eradication needs and objectives in Northeast Ohio, as funded by HUD. The Federal Government wants to attack environmental injustice at the core, through collaboration among Federal agencies, like HUD and EPA, with environmental justice organizations in local communities, like in the overly-lead-burdened Cleveland, so proposals to build EPA environmental justice programming to leverage impact of HUD Lead Eradication funding would make sense and likely appeal to grant review committees. Unfortunately, a community must recognize it is victim of ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE to apply for this grant money, and Cleveland has not yet made that recognition.

 

That "Cleveland" "has not yet made that recognition... it is victim of ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE" perfectly proves Administrator Jackson's point that "members of these communities have not been able to participate effectively in environmental decision making in part because they lack the background and information they need for meaningful participation" - we've been dumbed-down and deceived by local government and media - controlled and funded by heavy industry - to believe our community is healthy, when we are very sick.

A Quiet Day in the White House Media Briefing Room, as Important News At the White House Was Ignored By The Media

As such, Cleveland as a community may be too socially-challenged to take advantage of the Environmental Justice funding and Learning Center opportunities being championed by the EPA. Cincinnati, which has a more impressive record on environmental justice - and also received $4.5 million from HUD for lead eradication - may be the better candidate city to focus on environmental justice for Ohio. Either way, I'd like to see an environmental injustice community in Ohio pursue these opportunities, and will help to insure we do.

The EPA's proposal for a virtual and physical Environmental Justice Learning Center is truly revolutionary. I am not surprised - but am impressed - as I have seen Jackson's new EPA, under her leadership - and the federal government, in collaboration - act in bold ways to change the national perspectives on environmentalism in government and America. Expanding the environmental discussions to address injustice takes the big pictures of smokestacks and greenhouse gases and brings them into focus on the community and individual victims.

 
Special (unofficial) US EPA version of Tulane University "Green Wave" mascot - shown with Administrator Jackson, Class of 1983

I declared Administrator Jackson environmentalist of 2010 for her transformation of the federal government toward collaborative alignment around environmental injustice - what I called the most important positive environmental development in America in the 21st Century: "on December 15, 2010, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley convened the First White House Environmental Justice Forum, where leadership of the recently-reconvened Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) met with over 100 environmental justice leaders (typically long-suffering EJ victims), in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, at the White House complex, to develop new federal interagency strategies and interactions with citizens to right current EJ wrongs in America, in anticipation of worse to come as results of climate change."

Please read through the fascinating next steps proposed by Administrator Jackson's EPA, below, and comment to the EPA as request (by March 10, 2011) - post your comments here as well.

Feel free to contact me at norm [at] realneo [dot] us if you would like to collaborate on specific programming in response to this draft - I certainly have a vision for this center and would love to brainstorm on the vision of others in my community. I know the EPA will see feedback on this from Southwest Ohio - I am most interested to see what we may put together in Northeast Ohio, where I consider the environmental injustices the worst in America today.

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY OFFICE OF AIR AND RADIATION
CONCEPT PAPER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER
FEBRUARY 8, 2011 - DRAFT FOR PUBLIC COMMENT
INTRODUCTION

In January 2010, Administrator Lisa P. Jackson made Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice one of EPA’s key priorities. Many minority, low-income, and indigenous people have been historically underrepresented in environmental decision making, while at times experiencing higher levels of environmental pollution and other social and economic burdens that result in poorer health outcomes. Many members of these communities have not been able to participate effectively in environmental decision making in part because they lack the background and information they need for meaningful participation. As a result, EPA does not always benefit from important community input.

This new Agency priority challenges EPA to empower overburdened communities to take action to improve their health and environment. To address this challenge, EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) is taking the lead in developing a learning center or institute for environmental justice community members. The purpose of the center is to increase community awareness and understanding of environmental risks stemming from pollution and related environmental justice concerns. This effort will build communities’ capacity to participate in the protection of their air, water, and land resources. To become full partners in addressing the sources of pollution in their neighborhoods and communities, communities need help to understand complex environmental regulations and procedures; opportunities for public involvement; access to data and resources; assistance in navigating and participating in the regulatory process.

As OAR develops the learning center, it seeks input from environmental justice communities and stakeholders. The information below represents the initial thoughts of the Office of Air and Radiation.

INITIAL DRAFT PROPOSAL FOR AN EJ COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTER

Who would run the learning center?

The Office of Air and Radiation proposes to partner with another organization, perhaps a minority academic institution, which would be selected through a competitive grant process. OAR plans to seek applications from eligible entities capable of designing and managing a training program and resource center for members of minority, low-income and indigenous communities who seek to address environmental issues that are adversely impacting their communities.

Eligible applicants will be limited to:

  • States or state agencies;
  • Territories;
  • city or township governments;
  • county governments;
  • the District of Columbia;
  • federally recognized American Indian Tribes;
  • possessions of the U.S;
  • public and private universities and colleges;
  • hospitals;
  • laboratories;
  • other public or private nonprofit institutions; and
  • 501(c)(3) organizations.

Where would the learning center be located?

This would depend on where the grant recipient is located.

What would the major activities of the learning center be?

The major activities of the learning center would be to provide trainings and workshops for members of minority, low-income and indigenous communities on environmental issues of concern to them and to develop a newsletter and resource center that serves as a clearinghouse for reference material for communities.

How could community members afford to take trainings and participate in workshops?

The conditions of the grant would require that the grantee make scholarships available to participants who need assistance with travel and per diem.

Where would the trainings and workshops take place?

Some training and workshops would take place at the location of the grantee and others would be offered in other regions of the country. It is expected that some of the training would be offered on-line.

How would community members be involved in setting curriculum and delivering training?

The learning center will not be successful unless it is community-driven. This means that the grantee must have robust discussions about needs with community members and receive input from a diverse group of potential clients (community members) in order to establish a curriculum. It also means that the grantee must involve community members in planning each facet of the center and each course offering. For example, each training course could include one or more community members as trainers.

What kinds of training would be offered?

This will be decided after the grantee has obtained input from communities. OAR’s initial thoughts are that training would develop EJ communities’ capacity so that they:

  • Understand EPA structure, when and how to make a difference when they engage EPA and other regulatory agencies, such as state, local and tribal agencies
  • Come to the table with a basic knowledge base and technical background to provide substantive input.
  • Can conduct or participate in community level analysis and assessments using publicly available tools and resources.

This might mean that the initial trainings could cover topics like EPA’s rulemaking process, public involvement opportunities, and accessing and using publicly available data (e.g., air quality, socio-demographic, geographic information system (GIS)). At present, OAR expects that for the first year or two of operation, the learning center would focus on courses that are generally applicable to communities such as those listed above and a few courses that are specific to air quality protection. Once the learning center is established, the focus could expand to other programs (water, land, pesticides).

What experience does OAR have in developing this kind of center?

OAR has partnered with Northern Arizona University’s Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals to support development of the American Indian Air Quality Training Program (AIAQTP), which provides tribal governments with training and support that facilitates their interaction with EPA and air quality programs. AIAQTP assists in building tribal capacity to manage air quality, while ensuring that courses are culturally sensitive and provides high-quality, up-to-date training. OAR has supported AIAQTP since its inception in 1993 through grant funding and by providing expertise and technical resources. Tribes have made significant progress managing their own air quality management programs as a result of this partnership.

EPA believes the AIAQTP model can be adapted for the purpose of a community training program and resource center and build communities’ capacity to participate in the protection of their air, water, and land resources.

REQUEST FOR INPUT

EPA seeks feedback on the following questions:

  1. Does the approach to the learning center in this concept paper seem reasonable and appropriate? Is such a learning center needed? Is there a better approach?
  2. How can EPA strengthen community involvement in and ownership of the learning center?
  3. How would you prioritize the activities of the learning center?
  4. Do you have other comments or suggestions?

Comments are due by March 10, and they can be submitted to EPA via:

e-mail to Candace Carraway at EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards at carraway [dot] candace [at] epa [dot] gov; or

regular mail to:
     Candace Carraway
     Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards
     US Environmental Protection Agency
     109 TW Alexander Drive (C304-04)
     Research Triangle Park, NC 27711

Environmental Justice leader/victim speaking to panel at First White House Environmental Forum
Environmental Justice leader/victim Barbara Miller speaking to panel at First White House Forum on Environmental Justice