Rachel's News #986

4 Aufrufe
Direkt zur ersten ungelesenen Nachricht


21.11.2008, 00:12:4421.11.08
an omeg...@googlegroups.com


Rachel's Democracy & Health News #986

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, November 20, 2008.............Printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

How To Protect the Future
  As more and more people recognize that humans are ruining the
  planet as a place suitable for human habitation, a central question
  comes into focus: how can we protect the future, to assure that our
  children will have a hospitable planet to live on? What habits of
  thought, rules for behavior (laws), and institutions can we create to
  make sure the Earth continues to support our species?
The Case for a Coal Conservancy
  For all its success, the Nature Conservancy is sitting on the
  sidelines as the biggest ecological catastrophe in human history --
  runaway global warming -- threatens to undo all the progress that the
  organization has made in its history. That's tragic, because the
  Nature Conservancy has both the resources and the expertise to make a
Happy Birthday, Love Canal
  The disaster at Love Canal in 1978, discovered by affected
  community residents (not by government authorities), gave rise to a
  social movement aimed at curbing exposures to toxic chemicals. That
  social movement is still motivating the essential scientific research
  that is continuing to discover new kinds of harm from toxic chemicals,
  and government agencies are still playing catch-up.
Female Fetuses Are Sensitive To Hormone Disrupters
  Exposure of females to hormone-disrupting compounds early in life
  can lead to many reproductive disorders in adulthood, including early
  puberty, impaired fertility, and uterine fibroids.
An Executive Order for Environmental Justice: Keeping the Promise
  Here is a detailed proposal, submitted to President-elect Barack
  Obama, for an "Environmental Justice" (EJ) executive order fixing the
  broken EJ executive order, #12898, issued by President William J.


From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News, Nov. 19, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


By Tim Montague

The earth is our home -- our only home. So far as anyone knows, there
is no other place in the universe hospitable to human life. If we ruin
the earth as a place suitable for humans, we are lost.

In 2000 the United Nations organized a massive study to assess the
condition of planet earth. Called the Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment, the study involved 1300 researchers from 95 countries,
who spent four years examining 24 ecosystems worldwide. The main
conclusion: of 24 ecosystems studied, 15 (about 2/3rds) are in serious
decline as a result of human activities.

When the Millennium Assessment was released, the scientific director
the project, Dr. Walter Reid, said, "At the heart of this assessment
is a stark warning. Human activity is putting so much strain on the
natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystem
to support future generations can no longer be taken for granted."

As more and more people recognize that humans are ruining the planet
as a suitable home for humans, a central question comes into focus:
how can we protect the future, so that our children can be assured of
having a suitable home? What habits of thought, rules for behavior
(laws), and institutions can we put in place to make sure the earth
continues to support our species?

Now a new report from the Science and Environmental Health Network
(SEHN), the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School,
and the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) offers an overview of
legal and social mechanisms that human societies, ancient and modern,
have created to protect the future.

This short report -- just 24 pages, plus appendices -- examines three
crucial aspects of protecting the future:

1. How do we formally acknowledge and assert that the present
generation has an obligation to future generations, and that future
generations have a parallel right to a habitable planet?

2. What legal and social relationships can embody our recognition that
we have a duty to preserve our children's only home, the Earth?

3. What institutions can we create to make those relationships real
and effective?

Luckily we don't have to start from scratch. Ancient human societies
have passed down to us some of their own wisdom about these questions.
For example, the Gayanshagowa, or "Great Binding Law," of the Iroquois
Confederacy, defines the duties, rights, and qualifications of leaders
to take future generations' interests into account in their decision-
making: to "[l]ook and listen for the welfare of the whole people and
have always in view not only the present but also the coming
generations." (p. 7) This ancient law finds modern expression in the
Bemidji Statement developed by the Indigenous Environmental Network.

In modern times, humans have formally acknowledged the interests of
future generations in various legal frameworks. These include
declarations (like the Rio Declaration on Environment and
Development), conventions (the Stockholm Convention on Persistent
Organic Pollutants, for example), constitutions (notably, those of
Bolivia, Japan, Norway and the U.S. states of Alabama, Colorado,
Hawaii, Illinois, and Montana; see the appendix C of the report pp.
34-46 for details), as well as certain U.S. federal and state laws
(like the California Environmental Quality Act).

For example, the Norwegian Constitution says, "Every person has a
right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural
environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural
resources should be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term
considerations whereby this right will be safeguarded for future
generations as well." (p. 39)

Another example is the 1987 report, Our Common Future: Report of the
World Commission on Environment and Development (known as the
Brundtland Report), and the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate
Change, both of which connect actions by the current generation to
the well-being of future generations. The Brundtland Report gave us
what is still the most popular definition of sustainability:
"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." (p. 4)

So we have examples, ancient and modern, of many ways that present-day
humans have acknowledged their obligation to future generations.
Arguably, this obligation, once acknowledged, creates a parallel right
of future generations to inherit a habitable world. Rights are a
particularly powerful concept in the law, often trumping other

But how can a right to a habitable planet be safeguarded? We can have
the best intentions, but if we don't have a mechanism for representing
the interests of future generations in decision-making, then those
interests are likely to be ignored.

Courts, Ombudsmen, Guardians

The report describes three main ways that we can (and sometimes do)
protect the environment for future generations: the courts, ombudsmen
(or commissioners), and guardians (or trustees).

A functioning court system is essential. The courts interpret (and
hopefully uphold) the law. Of course there have to be meaningful laws
to uphold and the courts have to be independent from the influence of
money or other sources of corruption. The report offers a few examples
like the Philippines, which gave 44 minors the right to "sue on behalf
of themselves and future generations because of concerns about
unsustainable logging in the country." (p. 13) And the Montana Supreme
Court "found its state constitutional environmental provisions give
private citizens and environmental groups the right to sue for
environmental harms to public resources." which theoretically protects
the health and environment of future generations.

Assuming that the courts serve their basic function, then the
appointment (or election) of ombudsmen and guardians for future
generations are logical next steps. An ombudsman is an advisor who
engages in a decision-making process on behalf of future generations.
A guardian is a legal representative for future generations. The
distinction between the two is subtle but important.

Ombudsmen and Guardians for Future Generations

Ombudsmen are independent advisors who review proposed laws or
actions. They can serve as liaisons, mediators or investigators.
Sometimes they have the right to sue. According to the report, "Many
countries have established human rights ombudsmen. These authorities
usually serve quasi-judicial roles, either as investigators or
mediators." And two countries, Canada and the United Kingdom, have
established Ombudsmen for environmental issues. The U.K. Sustainable
Development Commission uses "advocacy, advice and appraisal... [to]
put sustainable development at the heart of Government Policy." It
reports to the prime minister and other ministers and describes itself
as "the Government's independent watchdog." (p. 16)

Guardians give future generations a direct voice and a real presence
in the decision-making process. According to the report, "Guardians
are advocates rather than advisors and seek, in specific situations
such as litigation and negotiations, to maximize the best interests of
those who cannot speak for themselves." (p. 19) The natural resource
trustees authorized by the U.S. Superfund Amendments and Re-
authorization Act of 1986 is a model for how guardians for future
generations could work to protect the environment and health of future

A precautionary approach is essential

Because there is inherent uncertainty when considering the impacts of
present-day actions on future generations, courts, guardians and
ombudsmen for future generations would rely on the precautionary
principle to guide their work, the report says. The report uses the
definition of precaution embodied in the 1998 Wingspread Statement:
"When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the
environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause
and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."
(p. 22)

The Wingspread Statement also specifies that "precautionary action"
involves a systematic search for the least-harmful alternative to any
intended action, as is spelled out in the U.S. National Environmental
Policy Act. The key, according to the report, is that "The
precautionary principle and alternatives approach acknowledge the
needs and rights of present generations, they also support the
protection of an ecologically healthy environment for future
generations. Both support the proposition that each generation depends
on its predecessors to bequeath it an inhabitable environment." (p.

Models for Protecting the Environment for Future Generations is a
unique resource for anyone interested in really protecting the
rights of future generations. It spells out in considerable
detail how courts, ombudsmen and guardians can protect the future.
It also reminds us that our right to a clean and healthy environment
is still not recognized as a basic human right. According to Carolyn
Raffensperger, one of the authors of the new report, this right, and
extending it to future generations, are essential additions to the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

In this report, you will find practical ideas and suggestions that you
could put into practice in your town or city, your county council,
your state, or your national government. In sum, here is an essential
set of tools for protecting the future, some new, some ancient, but
all explained clearly, concisely, and (so far as we know) collected
together for the first time ever. Get yourself a copy of the new
report here.

Return to Table of Contents


From: Gristmill, Nov. 19, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


Placing coal reserves into trust status would be a nice gift to
our kids' future

By Ted Nace

A generation before David Brower started raising hell at the Sierra
Club, a similarly militant scientist named Victor Ernest Shelford
organized the Ecological Society of America, becoming its first
president in 1916. Shelford stepped down from that position when the
Ecological Society of America shied away from taking controversial
stands. With a small group of other activist scientists, he formed the
Committee for the Preservation of Natural Conditions (1917) and later
the Ecologists Union (1946) with the objective of taking "direct
action" to protect threatened areas.

For Shelford's Ecologists Union, "direct action" meant buying
threatened areas. The approach proved wildly popular. Today, the
Ecologists Union, renamed the Nature Conservancy, spends hundreds of
millions of dollars every year putting land under protected status.

But for all its success, the Nature Conservancy is sitting on the
sidelines as the biggest ecological catastrophe in human history --
runaway global warming -- threatens to undo all the progress that the
organization has made in its history. That's tragic, because the
Nature Conservancy has both the resources and the expertise to make a

Until now, most efforts to stop global warming have targeted
greenhouse gas emissions, in particular emissions from coal, the most
carbon-intense and abundant fossil fuel. Some groups have stressed the
need for carbon capture and storage technology; others have advocated
phasing out coal plants. But another approach that deserves attention
is to limit coal at the supply end by placing reserves into some kind
of trust.

Logically, limiting coal at the source has one big advantage over
controlling emissions. In terms of climate change, it's not the yearly
releases of carbon dioxide that matter but rather the ultimate amount
of carbon dioxide to accumulate in the atmosphere. Merely slowing down
emissions is irrelevant if those emissions end up being released over
a longer period.

So why hasn't a "coal conservancy" strategy been developed? One
possible reason is that the world's coal reserves may seem too massive
for such an approach to make any difference. After all, conventional
wisdom holds that the U.S. alone has a "250-year supply of coal." If
that's true, then moving some coal reserves into trust status would be
a fruitless game of Whack-a-Mole in which industry simply shifted to
other locations.

At first glance, official reserve figures confirm the conventional
wisdom. Such numbers largely originate from the World Energy Council
(WEC), which provides the data used by other authorities including the
International Energy Agency, the US Energy Information Administration,
and British Petroleum's "Statistical Review of World Energy."
According to the WEC, the US and Canada indeed have 249.3 billion
metric tons of recoverable coal -- approximately a 250-year supply at
the U.S.'s current rate of consumption of roughly a billion metric
tons per year. The rest of the world consumes an additional four
billion tons per year (China accounts for over half of that) and has
another 600 billion metric tons of reserves.

A growing body of evidence, however, suggests that the WEC's estimates
of worldwide coal reserves are too high. In 2004, after Germany
undertook a close review of its hard coal reserves, official
estimates showed an astonishing drop from 23 billion tons to 183
million tons, a 99 percent reduction. Similarly, between 1980 and 2004
the United Kingdom reduced its "proved recoverable coal reserves"
from 45 billion tons to 220 million tons, another 99 percent

In 2007, Energy Watch Group, a private research effort initiated by
German member of parliament Hans-Josef Fell, completed an analysis of
worldwide reserve figures. The study concluded that "data quality of
coal reserves and resources is poor, both on global and national

A similar conclusion was reported by a blue ribbon panel organized
under the auspices of the National Research Council and funded by the
Office of Surface Mining. The panel concluded that "it is not possible
to confirm the often-quoted assertion that there is a sufficient
supply of coal for the next 250 years," noting that "the data that are
publicly available for such projections are outdated, fragmentary, or

A separate analysis by Cal Tech professor Dave Rutledge, borrowing
techniques from peak oil analysis, also concluded that official
reserve figures are overstated. Rutledge estimated that actual
worldwide reserves are 382 billion metric tons, less than half the 847
billion metric tons figure reported by the World Energy Council.

Some climate activists have worried that reports of lowered reserves
could encourage complacency on climate. But the implication of this
new analysis is really the opposite. Despite the downward revisions,
coal reserves are still large enough to push carbon dioxide levels
into the danger zone. What changes with the new analysis is the
possibility that taking some portion of reserves off the table could
actually make a difference on climate change. In other words, the
lower the reserves, the more a Coal Conservancy starts to make sense.

Currently, scores of coal projects in the United States are stymied
due to financing problems, lawsuits, and other hangups. For developers
who have assembled a package of coal rights only to be thwarted in
developing those rights, a fall-back of "donate the coal, take the tax
break, and run" might in some cases be a sensible financial strategy.

Private initiatives to place coal in trust status could also help spur
a debate over the appropriate disposition of Federal coal, which
dominates much of coal production in the West, including the massive
Powder River Basin mines that produce 37 percent of the nation's coal.
Currently, Federal policy encourages coal use by pricing leases very
cheaply. From a climate perspective that encouragement is entirely
counterproductive, but with the details hidden behind arcane and
complex leasing arrangements, the entire issue has remained hidden
from view. The attention to reserves that a Coal Conservancy might
generate could lead to a fresh look at Federal leasing policy.

A hint at what the Federal government could do to protect the climate
is shown in Bill Clinton's executive order creating the Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996. At the time, few people
realized that the area contained 11 billion tons of economically
mineable coal, enough to provide a lifetime fuel supply for 165 coal
plants of 500 megawatts each. Now this particular deposit of coal can
never threaten to tip the planet into runaway warming.

As the recent "drill, baby, drill" hysteria shows, energy price spikes
can lead to rapid loosening of environmental standards. One can
imagine a time in the coming decades when regions of coal not
currently being mined suddenly become the focus of intense
development. For that reason, a smart climate protection strategy
would involve placing those areas in trust before the pressure to
develop them becomes intense.

Is it certain that a Coal Conservancy would make a difference? Of
course not. But trying it would be vastly safer and cheaper insurance
policy than any of the Buck Rogers geoengineering schemes being
floated. Strangely, there's no evidence that the approach has been
even casually studied by those with the capability to make it happen.

Return to Table of Contents


From: Chemical and Engineering News, Nov. 17, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


It's been 30 years since the neighborhood surrounding America's most
famous toxic waste dump was evacuated, yet its legacy is still

By Erika Engelhaupt, Environmental Science & Technology

Niagara Falls, N.Y. -- In the middle of an abandoned suburban
neighborhood, a long grassy mound pokes up a few feet higher than the
cracked streets surrounding it. A green chain-link fence surrounds the
small hill, which is covered with wildflowers in summer -- lavender
chicory and small yellow daisies. The fence has no warning sign -- not
anymore -- but this is Love Canal, the toxic waste dump that became
synonymous with environmental disaster 30 years ago.

Adeline Levine, a sociologist who wrote a book about Love Canal,
described to me the scene she had witnessed exactly 30 years earlier,
on Aug. 11, 1978. "It was like a Hitchcock movie," she said, "where
everything looks peaceful and pleasant, but something is slumbering
under the ground."

That "something" was more than 21,000 tons of chemical waste. The
mixed brew contained more than 200 different chemicals, many of them
toxic. They were dumped into the canal -- which was really more of a
half-mile-long pond -- in the 1940s and 1950s by the Hooker
Electrochemical Co. In 1953, the canal was covered with soil and sold
to the local school board, and an elementary school and playground
were built on the site. A working-class neighborhood sprang up around

"The neighborhood looked very pleasant," says Levine, who was a
sociology professor at the State University of New York, Buffalo, in
1978. "There were very nice little homes, nicely kept, with gardens
and flowers and fences and kids' toys, and then there were young
people who were rushing out of their homes with bundles and packing up
their cars and moving vans."

Love Canal was in the midst of an all-out panic when Levine arrived;
just nine days earlier, the state health commissioner had declared an
emergency and recommended that pregnant women and children under the
age of two evacuate the neighborhood. A week after that, the state and
federal governments agreed to buy out homes next to the canal.

Levine spent all day interviewing people and was soon obsessed with
their plight. Residents spoke of miscarriages, cancers, and children
born with birth defects. She spent her vacation in New York City the
next month knocking on doors and getting turned down for grants by
foundations that couldn't imagine why a sociologist would want to
study an environmental problem. By that time, the entire country was
watching the drama of the Love Canal neighborhood play out on their TV

I was four years old at the time, and I don't remember a thing. But
later, as a teenager in the late 1980s, I lived about 2 miles from
Love Canal as the crow flies, on Grand Island, a literal suburban
island in the Niagara River. My father remembered Love Canal, and
before he took an engineering job in the area, he asked how far away
it was. He wasn't too happy to learn that he would be living nearly
within sight of it across the river. Even a decade after the
neighborhood's plight hit the news, the words "Love Canal" seemed to
be stamped on our brains in shrieking orange capital letters -- just
as Bhopal, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island would later be.

After the summer of 1978 came the buyout of some 900 homes; years of
legal battles and disputed health studies; the formation of the
Superfund cleanup program, which for the first time called on
businesses to pay for pollution cleanups; and a new awareness of the
dangers of living with chemical waste. Levine's book about Love Canal
became a seminal work in a new field, environmental sociology.

But in the beginning there was just a neighborhood that didn't even
think of itself as Love Canal. The dump only came to define the
LaSalle neighborhood after 1978, when the world learned about the
toxic waste buried there.

A CANAL CALLED LOVE. Love Canal got its name from William T. Love, an
entrepreneur and developer in Niagara Falls in the late 1800s. The
electrochemical industry was drawn to the waterfall because it
generated cheap hydroelectric power to feed its electricity-hungry
manufacturing processes. And Love had a deal for them. He would build
an industrial city, called "Model City" in the optimism of the day,
centered on a canal connected to the Niagara River. He started digging
in the 1890s.

Love's dream collapsed after the inventor Nikola Tesla came up with
alternating-current electricity, which could travel farther by wire
than direct current and obviated the need for factories to locate near
the falls. The canal Love left behind became a half-mile-long swimming
hole. But later, Elon Hooker decided to locate his electrochemical
company near the canal, and the business eventually became the largest
industrial enterprise in town, making chemicals and plastics.

In 1941, Hooker Chemical (which underwent various name changes and was
later bought by Occidental Chemical Corp.) decided to use Love's canal
for waste disposal. The canal was nearby in what was then a sparsely
populated area, and the soil was largely composed of impermeable clay
that Hooker's engineers thought would contain the chemicals well. From
about 1942 to 1953, Hooker disposed of thousands of tons of chemical
waste there, some of it loose and some in metal drums.

No one knows exactly what Hooker dumped, but perhaps one-quarter of
the waste was benzene hexachloride, the main component of the
pesticide lindane, a neurotoxin. There were chlorobenzenes (used in
the synthesis of DDT) and dozens of other organic chemicals, many of
which were known to be toxic. The waste also contained an estimated
120 lb of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, commonly called dioxin,
which is a by-product of trichlorophenol manufacture. At the time
dioxin was buried at Love Canal, it was not thought to cause disease,
but it is now known as one of the most carcinogenic chemicals in the
world. In those days, Hooker's landfill methods were legal and quite
common; companies were allowed to dump waste in almost any manner, as
long as they owned the land on which they dumped.

TOXIC BUBBLES. Sylvia Jean Gondek grew up next to the canal while
Hooker was dumping. Her family moved into the Griffon Manor housing
project around the beginning of 1946, joining the flood of returning
GIs and their families after World War II. Their neat white row house
was located at 2604 Frontier Ave., adjacent to the southern end of the
canal, where Hooker had concentrated its dumping.

She remembers Love Canal as basically a playground for the
neighborhood kids. "What you saw from the projects was a big mound of
dirt," Gondek says. "We would play cowboys and Indians there, and in
the winter we would slide down the sides in our sleds. The back side
[of the mound] was an open water area, which was supposed to be taboo,
but the older boys would swim in the canal and play on the drums,
which my sister and I never did do."

In 1953, Hooker sold the canal to the Niagara Falls school board for a
token dollar, with a warning that the site contained chemicals that
should not be disturbed by digging. However, it was agreed that a
school (with no basement) and a playground would be acceptable. The
site was supposed to be covered with several feet of clay to contain
the chemicals, but later testing found only a few inches of soil
covering metal drums in some areas.

Chemicals soon started rising to the soil's surface, Gondek recalls.
"We kids would go over [by the canal], and you would see a bubble form
-- oh, I would say about 9 to 12 inches in diameter," she says. Kids
would quickly gather up stones to throw into the chemical-filled hole.
They didn't know it, but the bubbles formed when a metal drum of
chemicals rusted through and broke underground. The soil above it
would collapse into the drum and force chemicals to the surface; then
the sides of the hole would close back up after a minute or two. "It
would open up sort of in slow motion, and then it would break, like a
bubble would, and then you would throw the stones in. It was a game we
played." The kids didn't think about whether it was dangerous. "As a
child, you shouldn't have to."

Gondek moved away from Love Canal at age 12 in 1955. Years later, her
third son was born with what her doctor described as a birth defect in
both eyes; his vision cannot be fully corrected with glasses, which
kept him out of military service. She wonders whether her chemical
exposure could have caused it. "I'll never know," she says.

A lot of people who moved away from Love Canal in the '50s and '60s
felt guilty about the possibility that they might have harmed their
children inadvertently, says Levine, the sociologist. "When I
interviewed them, they would say, 'I know it doesn't make sense
because I didn't know about the chemicals, but I feel like it was my
fault somehow,' " she tells me.

A number of studies, including both peer-reviewed research and
informal surveys, have found unusually high rates of congenital
malformations, or birth defects, in children born to mothers who lived
at Love Canal. However, it's impossible to say whether any one
instance was tied to chemicals. And Gondek never had any medical tests
for chemical exposure until 1978, when the situation in Love Canal
gained national attention. At that time, tests could not detect very
low levels of chemicals remaining in blood so long after exposure, so
Gondek's blood was tested in the same way as that of many other Love
Canal residents: for liver enzymes that would indicate possible damage
by chemicals to the liver. Her doctor told her she was fine.

THE SUMMER OF 1978. Michael Brown, a reporter at the Niagara Falls
Gazette, wrote a couple of stories in May of 1978 about the wastes
buried at Love Canal. A young housewife named Lois Gibbs noticed them
in the paper. She lived three blocks from the canal, which she figured
was too far away for the chemicals to affect her, but out of curiosity
she took one of the articles to her brother-in-law, who was a biology
professor. When he told her that some of the chemicals listed can
affect the nervous system, Gibbs thought about her 5-year-old son
Michael's epilepsy and about his growing list of other health issues,
including asthma, liver problems, and a urinary disorder, all of which
developed after moving to Love Canal. Michael was in kindergarten at
the 99th Street School -- the school that had been built directly on
top of the dump. Gibbs tried unsuccessfully to convince the school
superintendent to transfer Michael to another school.

Meanwhile, unusually heavy snow and rain in 1976 and 1977 had raised
the water table and flushed more chemicals out of the canal. "The
plastic liner of Mrs. Schroeder's swimming pool popped right out of
the ground [because of water pressure]," Gibbs says, referring to
Karen Schroeder, who lived on 99th Street right next to the canal. In
some homes, multicolored chemicals were seeping through the concrete
walls of basements.

At the time, scientists were just beginning to seriously study the
effects of living in contaminated areas for long periods of time --
chronic low-dose exposure. Most previous studies had focused instead
on workplace exposure, where people were breathing or handling
concentrated doses. As a result, the first health officials to begin
talking to Love Canal residents had little specific information about
health risks. Their advice to families who were seeing and smelling
chemicals in their basements was to stay out of the basement, just in

So residents at Love Canal started tallying illnesses for themselves,
Gibbs says, and they found alarming numbers of miscarriages, birth
defects, and illnesses in the neighborhood. Amid growing complaints,
the U.S. EPA and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation
stepped in to test the air in basements of homes bordering the canal.
They found benzene levels up to six times higher than federal limits
in some cases.

Fred and Barbara Jarzab's home on 97th Street was one of those tested.
The Jarzabs lived near the north end of the canal, where fewer
chemicals had been dumped, and they had never noticed any chemicals in
the basement. So Fred wasn't too worried when EPA installed an
analyzer in the basement. Then, while he was out of town on a business
trip, Barb called him and said they had told her the basement had
dangerous levels of benzene and toluene. She wasn't sure what it all
meant, but they had told her not to let the kids go into the basement.
When I asked if she kept going to the basement, Barb said she had to;
the washer and dryer were down there. "She held her breath," Fred

On May 19, about a hundred residents attended an emotional public
meeting at the 99th Street School. State and local health officials
openly disagreed about the severity of the health risks posed by the
chemicals, and the meeting devolved into chaos. Frightened residents
couldn't sell their homes and couldn't afford to abandon them. "The
banks wouldn't give loans on those houses," Gibbs says. "You were
literally stuck there." Meanwhile, the health and contamination
studies continued.

The state health department released its preliminary findings in July,
confirming residents' fears that women living near the southern end of
the canal were experiencing greater than normal rates of miscarriage
and birth defects. Karen Schroeder, whose swimming pool had emerged
from the ground, told the Niagara Gazette that her knees shook when
she heard the results. After living near the canal for years, she had
given birth to a daughter who was mentally retarded, deaf, and had a
cleft palate and a double row of bottom teeth.

On Aug. 2, 1978, state health commissioner Robert Whalen announced a
state of emergency at Love Canal and recommended that pregnant women
and children under the age of two temporarily move, as soon as
possible, but did not offer any financial help. The neighborhood
nearly rioted. A public meeting the next night became a shouting match
between residents and officials. One man reportedly fell to the ground
weeping after pleading with officials to move his children.

Within days, the governor announced that the state would buy the 239
homes closest to the canal, those on the two so-called inner rings,
including the Jarzabs' house. The Jarzabs spoke to me over coffee in
the house they moved to from Love Canal nearly 30 years ago. The quiet
cul-de-sac on Grand Island feels very far from the chain-link fence,
although it's only a few miles away. The state gave them a fair price
for their house, they say, and they got plenty of help with moving.
"We told the realtor we didn't want to be anywhere near a chemical
dump, so she had a map showing where they were, and there was nothing
on Grand Island," Barbara says. The island, with its favorable winds
carrying away the smell of Niagara Falls industries, became a refuge
for many Love Canal evacuees.

THE SECOND STORM. Gibbs, the homeowner activist, was left behind in
the 1978 evacuation and became president of the Love Canal Homeowners
Association. She continued fighting to convince the state and federal
government to buy outer-ring homes as well. The health department and
EPA argued that they had no evidence that chemicals were affecting
homes beyond the first two rings; environmental testing in the outer
rings found levels 1,000-fold lower than occupational safety limits.
But those limits were not intended as residential standards, and it
was unclear whether the levels were hazardous. "It was really scary,"
Gibbs says. "We needed the health department to say what the health
risks were."

Gibbs, working with cancer researcher Beverly Paigen of Roswell
Memorial Institute, developed a hypothesis that chemicals were
migrating farther from the canal along swales, natural depressions
created by old streambeds and ponds that had been filled in. Gibbs and
Paigen mapped out higher illness rates among people living along
swales. But the "swale theory," as it became known, was controversial,
and environmental testing along swales could not initially confirm it.

The final decision to purchase the remaining homes at Love Canal came
in May of 1980, after sources leaked the results of an EPA pilot study
on genetic damage that found that chromosomes were abnormally ring-
shaped or acrocentric (meaning one part of the chromosome was
shortened) in 11 of 36 people tested. Media coverage of Love Canal
peaked, and the homeowners detained two visiting EPA officials (the
press called them "hostages") in an effort to draw more attention to
their situation. The chromosome study had used no control group, and
many scientists disputed the medical significance of the
abnormalities, but the specter of genetic damage pushed the state to
speed its buyout of approximately 700 more homes. Finally, President
Jimmy Carter agreed to evacuate the residents, and Gibbs and her
neighbors were able to move out.

The abandoned homes in the inner rings were bulldozed in 1982, and in
1988 the New York state health commissioner, David Axelrod, declared
the area north of the canal to be safe for habitation based on an
interagency review overseen by EPA. The Love Canal Area Revitalization
Agency refurbished the empty homes north of the canal in the 1990s and
sold them for 20% below market value, with waivers of liability for

At the same time, the state deemed the area east of the canal and
south of Colvin Boulevard to be "uninhabitable" because of higher
contaminant levels. This meant the area would not be redeveloped, but
commissioner Axelrod said that the contamination was not an immediate
health threat to the few residents still living in the area.

The 20,000-plus tons of chemicals buried at Love Canal are there to
this day; EPA deemed it too dangerous to try to remove them. The New
York Department of Environmental Conservation installed a leachate
collection system to capture any rainwater that filtered through the
canal. The canal area, including the land where houses on the two
inner rings had been razed, was capped and fenced, and a leachate
treatment plant was built. EPA added a synthetic barrier layer to the
site in 1982 and improved and expanded the treatment system.

Occidental Petroleum (Hooker's parent company) was found liable for
the Superfund cleanup and settled a lawsuit with residents for $20
million. Of that, $3 million went to a follow-up health study, $1
million to a medical trust fund, and what remained after the lawyers'
take was divided among residents based on judgments of individual
health damages.

HEALTH EFFECTS. Gibbs and many of the residents of the outer rings
came to deeply resent what they saw as a runaround by the state health
department. Gibbs says she was told that the information she collected
on neighborhood illness amounted to "useless housewife data." Her idea
about swales carrying chemicals was refuted publicly, only to be
partly vindicated in later comparisons by the department that found
higher illness rates in "wet" versus "dry" locations. The health
department, in turn, maintained that they were doing their best with
the scientific tools they had.

The residents' basic question -- How did Love Canal affect their
health? -- is still in some dispute today. The New York State
Department of Health (NYSDOH) has been working on a follow-up health
study for nearly 10 years. A public draft of the report was posted on
the agency website in October 2006, but the work was then split into
four studies, which the agency is submitting to peer-reviewed
journals. One paper, which outlines mortality in Love Canal residents,
has been submitted for publication, but none have yet been published.

I spoke with Nancy Kim, acting director of the health department's
environmental health center, and Edward Fitzgerald, the principal
investigator of the follow-up study. They were reluctant to discuss
their results because the peer-review process is not complete, and
they noted that the main issues being addressed surround the
interpretation and discussion of the data.

The study compared the health of Love Canal residents to that of
people living in New York state and Niagara County. The study used
state registry data for more than 6,000 people who lived near Love
Canal between 1942 and 1978, but included only people who were located
and interviewed in 1978. The registries generally provide reliable
data but lack data on many kinds of illnesses and on birth defects
before 1983, cancers before 1979, and illnesses after residents moved
out of state.

The study has been criticized, particularly by Gibbs's organization,
for relying on the limited registry data instead of reinterviewing
residents to get a more complete health picture. Kim and Fitzgerald
say that the department considered interviews but was afraid that
residents wouldn't participate. Stephen Lester, a scientist who has
acted as a community liaison at Love Canal since 1978, represented
community interests on an advisory panel at the beginning of the
follow-up study. Lester is now the science director for the Center for
Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), an advocacy group directed by
Gibbs. He agrees that participation was an issue, because an attempt
in the 1980s had garnered little but hostility from residents. "The
community had lost all faith and trust in the state health department
and wanted nothing to do with them," he says. "I said it wouldn't be
easy, but if they could engage the community first and let them do the
outreach instead of the health department, you could do something

Despite the conservative approach used, which the health department
acknowledges is biased toward underestimating health effects, some
striking results emerged in the draft report. Children born at Love
Canal were twice as likely as other children in other parts of the
county to be born with a birth defect, a statistically significant
finding. Children conceived at Love Canal were more than twice as
likely to be female compared with children conceived after the mother
left the neighborhood. This is consistent with findings in Seveso,
Italy, where more girls were born to fathers (but not mothers in that
case) who were exposed to a dioxin cloud released in a pesticide plant
accident in 1976.

The draft also reported elevated rates of kidney, bladder, and lung
cancers at Love Canal, though few of the comparisons were
statistically significant. The language of the report tends to be
conservative in describing the severity or strength of effects,
emphasizing the relatively small number of data points.

The final studies will include some new statistical analyses of the
levels of chemicals in residents' blood, based on blood samples
collected in 1978 and stored by the health department. The study used
methods that were not available in 1978 to detect part-per-billion
concentrations of chemicals (gas chromatography with microelectron
capture detection and mass spectrometry).

LESSONS LEARNED, AND NOT LEARNED. Stephen Lester arrived at Love Canal
on Oct. 10, 1978, the day the state's cleanup work was set to begin,
as an environmental consultant assigned to represent community
interests during construction of the leachate containment system. He
saw buses idling on street corners throughout the neighborhood, ready
to sweep people away if a bulldozer ruptured a tank and sent toxic
fumes into the air. Residents were horrified and scared. Signs were
posted on homes around the community reading "Give me liberty -- I've
already got death" and "Evacuate us now!"

Love Canal serves today as a case study of the pitfalls confronting
agencies working with the public. The health department's relationship
with residents soured early, when officials either could not or would
not provide straight answers and came across to residents as
condescending. Particularly for homeowners in the outer rings -- stuck
in unsellable homes and afraid of the health consequences of staying
-- there was a widespread feeling that the public-health system,
including the scientists, was failing them.

"At Love Canal, people were given slips of paper listing levels of six
or seven chemicals found in their basements," Lester says. "People
wanted to know, 'What does this mean? Does this mean I'm going to get
cancer, or will my kids get sick?' I remember one woman in particular
-- I told her, 'I can't say what this means for you as an individual,
I can only tell you in general what the risks are.' She said to me,
'We can put a man on the moon, and you're telling me that we don't
know what these chemicals are going to do to us?'

"Here we are 30 years later, and we still don't have a government
agency capable of taking on health problems in communities and
answering people's questions about their health," Lester says. Part of
the problem is that the basic toolbox for environmental health studies
has barely changed in 30 years, he notes. Although analytical methods
for detecting low levels of chemicals have improved, the general
approaches for studying community health -- surveys, registry data,
and epidemiological analyses -- have remained much the same. How much
better could the methods really be? "The tools are limited. But a lack
of political will has prevented anyone from really thinking out of the
box and applying different approaches."

In contrast, public participation, when done well, has improved
federal agencies' decision-making, according to a report released in
August by the National Research Council. Since Love Canal, and largely
spurred by it, citizens' groups have demanded more inclusion in
decisions that affect their communities, such as the cleanup of
Superfund sites. Some form of public participation is often required
by law now, though it often takes the limited role of public
information-gathering meetings.

LOVE CANAL'S LEGACY. The crisis at Love Canal spurred some immediate
change. In New York, the state health system was prompted to create a
registry of birth defects.

Love Canal also spawned the Superfund law. In 1980, President Carter
signed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation &
Liability Act, creating a fund paid into by waste generators for
cleanup of the nation's most toxic sites. The program is nearly out of
money now and has a huge backlog of sites needing cleanup, but it
established the "polluter pays" concept.

Today, nearly half of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of one
of the EPA's 1,304 active and proposed Superfund sites, according to
the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit group dedicated to
investigative journalism.

And environmental scientists continue to uncover the long-term health
effects of chemical exposure. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
(including dioxin), which were virtually unknown in 1978, are
currently one of the hottest topics in environmental health science.
Researchers have found that, in some cases, these chemicals can cause
reproductive effects that carry forward for multiple generations. The
follow-up health study of Love Canal finds a disturbing trend that
echoes that pattern: Children born to mothers who lived on the canal
during pregnancy have increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes
themselves later in life, including low birth weight, preterm birth,
and babies born small for their gestational age.

Perhaps most importantly, Love Canal inspired a generation of
activists like Erin Brokovich to take on environmental problems in
their communities. "It took the environmental movement back to the
grass roots," says Levine, after a decade when environmental battles
were waged increasingly in court and out of the public forum.

LOVE CANAL TODAY. George Kreutz and his three young boys live on 101st
Street, in a part of the Love Canal neighborhood that had the highest
contamination levels. The area was deemed uninhabitable by the state
health commissioner in 1988; new houses cannot be built there, but
people can continue living in the ones left standing by homeowners who
chose not to evacuate. When Kreutz and his girlfriend rented the small
blue house in December 2007, he says he had no idea Love Canal was in
his backyard. The chain-link fence is visible just across the street.

Kreutz says he didn't think much about all the open space in the
neighborhood when he moved in. "It just looked like a field," he says.
He adds that he's happy with the house, which he calls immaculate
except for the weeds sprouting from the gutters. It's quiet, the rent
is cheap, and the only real problem he noticed was a lot of illegal
dumping among the tall weeds (an entire pallet of phone books rests a
few steps beyond his neatly mowed yard).

Kreutz, 33, grew up in Florida and had never heard of Love Canal until
he moved in. When people mentioned it, he did an Internet search.
"When I put Love Canal in the computer, it just blew up on my computer
screen." At that point, Kreutz got nervous about living there with his
sons, aged five, two, and 10 months.

While George and I talk in his driveway in front of the disassembled
car he was working on, his towheaded older boy comes outside. He
bounces a ball and walks slowly around the small front yard. "Do you
worry about letting the kids play outside?" I ask. "They're not
allowed outside the mowed area," he says. "I would never have put my
children in that situation if I had known about it," he adds. He plans
to move as soon as he can afford to.

The rest of Niagara Falls has not fared much better. Today, my drive
through the area is a tour of industrial smells -- rubber, sewage
treatment, and various shades of acrid and sour odors near the
chemical plants. And then I start noticing the landfills -- they seem
to rise up everywhere. The region is home to more landfills than just
about anywhere else in the nation, including some of the largest toxic
waste landfills. Residents of nearby Lewiston and Porter are currently
fighting for cleanup of the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works, a
landfill and hazardous waste storage site containing about 8 million
metric tons of hazardous waste, including PCBs and radioactive waste
dating back to the Manhattan Project.

LOIS GIBBS TODAY. Large framed black-and-white prints hang on the back
wall of Gibbs's office at CHEJ, showing kids at Love Canal and kids in
other towns with their own tragedies. Gibbs was there for all of them.
She is petite, with lively green eyes that add to the impression she
is much younger than she is. She has a way of drawing people in and
making them feel like part of something, and it is easy to see how her
magnetic charm, combined with what she describes as an Irish no-
nonsense practicality, helped make her into a leader.

But this is only in retrospect. In 1978, Gibbs was a quiet housewife
with a high-school education. "You know," she says, "I was from Grand
Island. There, either you're really out there [waving her arms above
her head to paint a picture of the kind of wackiness that passes for
renegade in small towns] or you're really shy. I was shy." When she
decided to reach out to neighbors, she didn't know how to act or what
to say. So she wrote up a petition calling for closing the 99th Street
School and decided to imitate what she had seen other petitioners do:
She started knocking on doors.

So many people called her after Love Canal looking for advice about
hazards in their neighborhoods that Gibbs decided to make it a full-
time job. She moved to the Washington, D.C., area and established CHEJ
to help communities organize against environmental threats.

Despite the lessons that should have been learned from Love Canal,
Gibbs says toxic waste continues to threaten schoolchildren. A 2005
study by CHEJ found half a million children attending schools within
half a mile of toxic waste dumps in just four states -- New York, New
Jersey, Massachusetts, and Michigan. Only seven states have laws
prohibiting the construction of schools on or near hazardous waste

She says she's sad when she sees her old neighborhood at Love Canal so
quiet now; in her memories, Love Canal is a thriving neighborhood
chock-full of kids barreling along on Big Wheel tricycles and walking
home from school for lunch, giggling and yelling. "The thing about
Love Canal is, I loved that community," she says.

Gibbs's house on 101st Street was reduced to rubble long ago, but a
huge evergreen tree stands in what used to be her front yard. Touring
her old neighborhood this summer, she points the tree out proudly to a
small flock of reporters. She and her son Michael planted the tree
when they moved in, planning to decorate it each Christmas. "It
withstood all of this," she says, adding that now it reminds her where
she lived. It's clear this place remains part of her; it made her who
she has become.

Back in Washington, D.C., I mention to her that many of my friends who
are my age have never heard of Love Canal. "Keep telling the story,"
she says, "we need to remember it."


Erika Engelhaupt is an associate editor of ES&T.

Return to Table of Contents


From: Environmental Science & Technology, Nov. 12, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


By Janet Pelley

Although the association between human male reproductive health and
synthetic chemicals has been explored for more than 10 years,
researchers have just compiled a similar evaluation for females. The
study, published online in Fertility and Sterility in October,
indicates that exposure in the womb to chemicals that disrupt the
endocrine system may be an important factor in painful and costly
reproductive diseases that affect a majority of adult women in the

A team of 18 scientists combed through more than 300 studies on the
contribution of endocrine-disrupting compounds to disorders of the
ovary, uterus, breast, and pubertal timing. Experiments with rats and
mice reveal that many ubiquitous chemicals such as PCBs, the herbicide
atrazine, and plasticizers have detrimental effects on the female
reproductive tract. Because the reproductive physiology of humans and
rodents is remarkably similar, it is reasonable to predict that human
female reproductive fitness can be disrupted by these compounds,
according to the study.

Human epidemiology studies also support these predictions, the
researchers add. For example, women who were exposed in the womb to
diethylstilbestrol (DES), an estrogenic compound used before 1971 to
prevent miscarriages, are more likely to have rare cervicovaginal
cancers, decreased fertility, and breast cancer.

"We're increasingly finding that early life exposures are critically
important for adult onset of disease," says report coauthor Sarah
Janssen, a reproductive biologist at the Natural Resources Defense
Council, an advocacy group. Studies on rodents have shown that
exposure to the plasticizer bisphenol A (BPA) early in life disrupts
the growth of breast tissue, leading to cancerous lesions in the
mammary glands of adult animals. Human studies have shown that
exposing normal breast tissue samples to environmentally relevant
concentrations of BPA results in changes in gene expression similar to
those found in aggressive breast cancer, Janssen says.

The researchers call for international coordination of research and
more data on human exposures, especially data linking human fetal
exposures to adult onset of disorders and improved data on the
occurrence of women's reproductive health problems. They recommend
making information on how to reduce exposures more accessible to the
public and call for reducing contamination of air, water, and land
with endocrine-disrupting compounds.

Copyright 2008 American Chemical Society

Return to Table of Contents


From: Center for Progressive Reform, Nov. 13, 2008
[Printer-friendly version]


By CPR Member Scholars**

[Rachel's introduction: The Center for Progressive Reform in
Edgewater, Maryland has issued a new report titled "Protecting
Public Health and the Environment by the Stroke of a Presidential Pen:
Seven Executive Orders for the President's First 100 Days." Here is
their proposal for an executive order on Environmental Justice.]


U.S. environmental laws have dramatically improved the quality of the
nation's air, water, and wilderness, while saving countless lives. But
environmental protection efforts continue to produce radically unequal
results when compared on the basis of race, class, sex, and age.

For instance, African Americans have the highest asthma rates of any
racial or ethnic group in the country and are three times as likely as
whites to be hospitalized for asthma treatment.[12] Poor children and
children of color are eight times more likely to have elevated levels
of lead in their blood than other children.[13] Respiratory illnesses
and elevated blood lead levels are but a few of the troubling
indicators that stem from documented disparities in exposure to a wide
range of pollution and risk-generating practices.

The nation's environmental laws also produce inequalities based on
diversity in culture and lifeways. For example, the fishing tribes in
the Great Lakes, the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere are
disproportionately harmed when the fish on which they rely become
contaminated with mercury. In fact, nearly one-third of Native
American, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and "mixed race" women
of childbearing age have blood mercury levels above EPA's "safe"
threshold, putting their developing babies at risk. This level is more
than double that for white women.[14] Global climate change is also
complicating the picture. Vulnerable populations like the poor and the
elderly will be especially at risk as droughts, heat waves, and storms

Moreover, many fear that even well-intended policies to confront
climate change could backfire in environmental justice terms. Capand-
trade proposals -- which promise efficient reductions in greenhouse
gas emissions -- could actually intensify local concentrations of
particulate matter and other pollutants that accompany carbon
emissions in poor cities, if polluters there choose to buy extra
permits to pollute. In addition, investments to promote clean energy
and expand "green collar" jobs run the risk of bypassing those in
shuttered industrial towns or the crime-ridden inner city, reinforcing
the country's "wealth gap."

Responding to such inexcusable disparities in the distribution of
environmental benefits and burdens, Executive Order 12898, issued by
President Bill Clinton in 1994, promised to reshape federal agency
action toward achieving environmental justice for minority and low-
income communities. The 15th anniversary of the Order will arrive just
three weeks into the new President's term. Even cursory reflection
reveals that Executive Order 12898 has failed to live up to its
promise, and needs an overhaul.


REQUIRE agencies to analyze the environmental justice impact of rules
and require them to address environmental injustice affirmatively.

The failures of Executive Order 12898 are in part attributable to
shortcomings in the provisions of the Order itself. Its biggest fault
is its timid approaches to key concepts like "environmental justice
communities" and "subsistence." For instance, the Order makes the
mistake of framing too narrowly the inquiry of what an "environmental
justice community" might be, insisting that its harms be
"disproportional" to some undefined standard. As a result, intractable
problems of proof stymie constructive action.

The understanding of "subsistence" is troubling too, with potentially
dire consequences for American Indian peoples' cultural resources and
rights. For American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages,
subsistence goes beyond physical sustenance. Rather, it describes a
communal way of life that has physiological, psychological, social,
cultural, and spiritual dimensions. And it implicates practices to
which Indian tribes have legal rights, including rights protected by
treaties and the federal trust responsibility. The original Order,
however, failed to make such an understanding explicit, and today many
federal agencies too narrowly define subsistence to refer to a
threshold level of individual caloric intake. If tribal members no
longer meet this threshold, agencies do not count them as
"subsistence" populations -- and decline to consider whether agency
actions contribute further to depletion and contamination of the fish,
wildlife, and plant resources. Thus, under the original Order,
agencies may permit contamination of fish, advise tribal people to
curtail their intake of this traditional food, and then effectively
penalize them if, as a result, fish no longer comprise the "principal
portion" of their dietary intake. This approach actually undermines
the subsistence way of life it is supposed to honor.

Additionally, the original Order provides little impetus for an
affirmative environmental justice agenda. Its focus is primarily
limited to the elimination of disproportionate environmental burdens.
But the emergence of the new "green" economy holds the promise that
environmental protection will spawn a new set of economic
opportunities -- new jobs, new investments in infrastructure, and new
technologies. As these new environmental benefits begin to take shape,
the U.S. government must ensure that they are distributed in a way
that is inclusive and fair, so that all communities share in the
dividends of the new green economy.

Finally, the original Order gives little direction to agencies in
integrating environmental justice into their core missions, and
provides no meaningful mechanism for measuring progress and holding
agencies accountable over the long term. Agencies issue scores of
regulations each year that have environmental justice implications.
But these agencies often fail to ask who will bear the burdens and who
will reap the benefits of a regulation, or to consider whether the
regulation ameliorates or exacerbates current inequities.[15] As a
result, environmental justice often fails to make it onto agencies'
radar screens.

When agencies do identify environmental justice as a potential concern
during the rulemaking process, their responses often indicate a
misunderstanding of the relevant issues.

For example, when EPA purported to assess the environmental justice
impacts of its final "Clean Air Mercury Rule," which would have
postponed and weakened reductions in mercury emissions, EPA observed
that Native Americans, Southeast Asian Americans, and others would be
better off with the rule's meager reductions than with nothing.
Indeed, in a particularly callous twist, EPA asked "whether high fish-
consuming (subsistence) populations would be disproportionately
benefited by the final rule,"[16] despite EPA's own data showing that
many in these groups would be left exposed to unsafe levels of mercury
in fish.

Solution by Executive Order

After nearly 15 years of false starts and neglect, the next President
can take the first meaningful steps towards fulfilling the nation's
commitment to Environmental Justice by amending or replacing the
original Executive Order on environmental justice. The new Order

(1) clarify the key terms "environmental justice communities" and

(2) require a meaningful analysis of the environmental justice impacts
and implications of all major new rules;

(3) impose on agencies a substantive obligation to take affirmative
steps to ameliorate environmental injustice;

(4) launch an affirmative environmental justice agenda; and

(5) hold agencies accountable for carrying out their environmental
justice obligations. As is the case with the provisions of the
existing Executive Order on Environmental Justice, all of these
recommendations are consistent with the goals of Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act.

1. Clarify Key Terms

The phrase "environmental justice community," while easily understood
conceptually, has proved difficult to define with precision. The
contexts in which environmental injustices occur vary widely,
rendering abstract definitions inadequate. In addition, national
databases do not typically capture all of the impacts that occur at
the local level. Accordingly, a more appropriate framework for
identifying "environmental justice communities" should be developed to
account for these issues. This framework should include the following

(1) a broad list of factors that allow for the identification of areas
of concern without excluding disadvantaged communities;

(2) a requirement that agencies consider both communities that are
disproportionately impacted and those that face unacceptably high
risks or exposures; and

(3) language that is carefully phrased to avoid giving rise to debates
about causation.

Second, the new Order should address American Indians' and Alaska
Natives' unique concerns regarding "subsistence." The original Order
directs agencies simply to collect information about subsistence
consumption of fish and wildlife and to issue consumption advisories
when these resources are contaminated. While it provides that these
agency responsibilities "apply equally to Native American programs,"
it fails to address the special circumstances, political status, and
legal rights of Indian tribes and their members. The next President
should, after consulting with tribal leaders, take steps to address
Indian tribes' subsistence concerns, by amending Executive Order 12898
(a) to correct its misunderstanding of "subsistence" and (b) to direct
agencies, after consulting with tribes according to Executive Order
13175,[17] to develop strategies to address the adverse impacts of
federal programs, policies, and activities on the subsistence
practices of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

2. Require a Meaningful Environmental Justice Analysis of Major Rules

The new Order should require agencies to conduct an environmental
justice analysis for each major rule. Further, in order to ensure that
such analyses are rigorous and meaningful, the new Order should direct
the EPA to create an advisory committee charged with developing an
appropriate methodology and protocol for conducting such analyses.
This advisory committee should include members of the environmental
justice community. It should also conduct a series of meetings around
the country with various environmental justice communities and use
their input in developing the methodology. The methodology should
include specific procedures for agencies to conduct outreach to and
obtain input from affected environmental justice communities in
conducting these analyses.

3. Make a Substantive Commitment to Ameliorate Environmental Injustice

Analysis is a waste of time and resources unless it is linked to a
commitment to take meaningful action. Section 1-101 of the existing
Order directs agencies to "address" environmental justice concerns,
but this language has proved to be too vague. Agencies often interpret
it as requiring only analysis, not action. Accordingly, the new Order
should impose on agencies a clear obligation to take affirmative steps
to ameliorate environmental injustice to the maximum extent feasible,
consonant with other legal obligations and constraints.

4. Launch an Affirmative Environmental Justice Agenda

The next President should launch an affirmative environmental justice
agenda, announcing a set of goals aimed at ensuring that the benefits
of the emerging "green" economy are distributed in a way that is
inclusive and fair. These goals should include the development of
"green-collar" jobs, job training, and new green businesses in
traditionally disadvantaged environmental justice communities. The
federal government can encourage the achievement of these goals
through tax breaks, the creation of "green enterprise zones," and
other creative solutions. Accordingly, the new Order should also
direct each federal agency to exercise its discretion, consistent with
existing law, to promote the goals of an affirmative environmental
justice agenda wherever possible. Further, the Order should direct
each agency to develop a plan outlining how existing programs will be
administered in order to promote these goals and recommending new
programs for achieving them, including, where appropriate, new
proposed legislation.

The next President should launch an affirmative environmental justice
agenda, announcing a set of goals aimed at ensuring that the benefits
of the emerging 'green' economy are distributed in a way that is
inclusive and fair.

5. Hold Agencies Accountable

The new Order should include procedures for holding federal agencies
accountable for carrying out their environmental justice obligations.
Specifically, it should require each agency to develop an agency-wide
environmental justice plan that identifies and addresses programs and
policies that threaten to undercut environmental justice. These plans
should also incorporate the affirmative environmental justice plan
described above. To ensure the ongoing and effective implementation of
these plans, the Order should require agencies to revise and update
their environmental justice plan every two years and submit it as a
public report to the President. Furthermore, the Order should require
that the President designate a new or existing office within the White
House to oversee implementation of the new Order.


CPR Member Scholars include (see biographies below): Rebecca M.
Bratspies, David M. Driesen, Robert L. Fischman, Sheila Foster, Eileen
Gauna, Robert L. Glicksman, Alexandra B. Klass, Catherine A. O'Neill,
Sidney Shapiro, Amy Sinden, Rena Steinzor, Robert R.M. Verchick, and
Wendy Wagner, and CPR Policy Analyst James Goodwin

About the Authors

Rebecca M. Bratspies is a Member Scholar of the Center for Progressive
Reform and an Associate Professor of Law at the CUNY School of Law,
New York, New York. She holds a J.D. cum laude from the University of
Pennsylvania Law School and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. Before
teaching, Professor Bratspies served as a legal advisor to Taiwan's
Environmental Protection Administration. Professor Bratspies has two
forthcoming books:

Progress in International Institutions, and Transboundary Harm in
International Law: Lessons from the Trail Smelter Arbitration.

David M. Driesen is a Member Scholar of the Center for Progressive
Reform and a University Professor at Syracuse University. He holds a
J.D. from Yale Law School. Prior to entering academia, Professor
Driesen worked as a project attorney and then senior project attorney
in the air and energy program for the Natural Resources Defense
Council. He was an Assistant Attorney General in the Special
Litigation Division of the Washington State Attorney General's Office.
Professor Driesen has published widely in the areas of environmental
law and policy, including co-authoring the textbook Environmental Law:
A Conceptual and Pragmatic Approach (Aspen 2007) with CPR Member
Scholar Robert Adler.

Robert L. Fischman is a Member Scholar of the Center for Progressive
Reform, Professor of Law, Harry T. Ice Faculty Fellow, and Professor
of Public and Environmental Affairs (adjunct) at the Indiana
University School of Law-Bloomington. Prior to his academic career,
Professor Fischman served as Natural Resource Program Director and
Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.
He is a distinguished scholar whose articles have won recognition as
among the most influential in environmental law. He has written on
public land management, endangered species recovery, environmental
impacts analysis, federalism, and global climate change. His book on
management of the National Wildlife Refuge System has become the
standard reference in the field.

Sheila Foster is a Member Scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform
and a tenured full Professor at Fordham University School of Law in
New York City.

Professor Foster has provided legal advice and expertise to a number
of grassroots environmental justice organizations in New York, New
Jersey, and Pennsylvania. For example, she was part of the litigation
team suing on behalf of a community group in Camden, New Jersey
claiming environmental racism in the placement of a cement recycling
plant in their heavily polluted neighborhood. Professor Foster has
published widely on the subject of environmental justice, and is the
co-author of a NYU Press book, From the Ground Up: Environmental
Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (2001).

Eileen Gauna is a Member Scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform
and a tenured full Professor at the University of New Mexico School of

Professor Gauna has worked closely with grassroots environmental
justice organizations and networks in the Southwestern United States.
For example, she conducted workshops on the applicability of civil
rights laws to environmental permitting for the South West Organizing
Project, Compadres , and Tucsonians for a Cleaner Environment.
Professor Gauna has published widely in the area of environmental
justice and together with CPR Member Scholar Cliff Rechtschaffen, co-
authored the casebook, Environmental Justice: Law, Policy and
Environmental Protection (2002).

Robert L. Glicksman is a Member Scholar and Director of the Center for
Progressive Reform, and holds the Robert W. Wagstaff Chair at the
University of Kansas School of Law. Professor Glicksman holds a J.D.
from the Cornell Law School and is a nationally recognized authority
on environmental and natural resources law. Prior to joining the
faculty of the University of Kansas School of Law, Professor Glicksman
worked in private practice, serving industrial clients in the energy
and chemical industries. He has also served as a consultant to the
Secretariat for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an
international organization established by the North American Agreement
on Environmental Cooperation (the environmental side agreement to
NAFTA). He has published widely in the areas of pollution control,
public natural resources management, and administrative law and is the
co-author of numerous texts, including the environmental law casebook,
Environmental Protection: Law and Policy (Aspen Publishers).

Alexandra B. Klass is a Member Scholar of the Center for Progressive
Reform and an Associate Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law
School. Professor Klass received her B.A. from the University of
Michigan, and her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School.
She has represented citizen groups, local governments, corporations in
litigated and regulatory matters relating to wetlands, cleanup of
contaminated property, environmental review, eminent domain, land use,
wind power, and flood impoundment projects. Professor Klass's articles
have appeared in numerous law journals.

Catherine A. O'Neill is a Member Scholar of the Center for Progressive
Reform and an Associate Professor of Law at Seattle University School
of Law. She has worked on issues of environmental justice with various
tribes, advisory committees, and grassroots environmental justice
groups. Professor O'Neill is currently a member of the technical
advisory board for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community's four-year
study, "Bioaccumulative Toxics in Native Shellfish." Professor O'Neill
was a Ford Foundation Graduate Fellow at Harvard Law School. She has
published numerous articles in the areas of environmental justice and
environmental policy, many of which have been excerpted in casebooks,
anthologies, and other collections on a diverse array of topics.

Sidney Shapiro is a Member Scholar and Director of the Center for
Progressive Reform, and holds the University Distinguished Chair in
Law at the Wake Forest University School of Law. Professor Shapiro has
served as a consultant to the Administrative Conference of the United
States, the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress, and
the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Before
entering academia, he served as a trial attorney in the Bureau of
Competition of the Federal Trade Commission and later worked as the
Deputy Legal Counsel, Secretary's Review Panel on New Drug Regulation
at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Professor Shapiro has published dozens of articles on regulatory
policy, health and safety laws, environmental law and administrative
law in prominent law reviews as well as in specialty journals.

Amy Sinden is a Member Scholar and Director of the Center for
Progressive Reform, and an associate Professor of Law at the Temple
University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia. Professor Sinden
graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania Law
School. Before joining the Temple Law School faculty in 2001,
Professor Sinden served as senior counsel for Citizens for
Pennsylvania's Future. Her recent academic writings have criticized
the misuse of economic theory in environmental law. She has also
written about the application of classical human rights norms to
environmental conflicts.

Rena Steinzor is the President and a Director of the Center for
Progressive Reform, and the Jacob A. France Research Professor of Law
at the University of Maryland School of Law, with a secondary
appointment at the University of Maryland Medical School Department of
Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine. Professor Steinzor received her
B.A. from the University of Wisconsin and her J.D. from Columbia Law
School. She joined the faculty of the University of Maryland School of
Law in 1994 from the Washington, D.C. law firm of Spiegel and
McDiarmid. From 1983 to 1987, Steinzor was staff counsel to the U.S.
House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee
with primary jurisdiction over the nation's laws regulating hazardous
substances. Professor Steinzor has published widely in the areas of
environmental federalism, the implications of industry self-regulation
on the protection of the environment and public health, and so-called
"market based" alternatives to traditional regulation. Her most recent
book, Mother Earth and Uncle Sam: How Pollution and Hollow Government
Hurt Our Kids was published by the University of Texas Press in
December 2007.

Robert R.M. Verchick is a Member Scholar and Director of the Center
for Progressive Reform. He holds the Gauthier St. Martin Eminent
Scholar Chair in Environmental Law and is Faculty Director of the
Center for Environmental Law and Land Use at Loyola University, New

Professor Verchick is a graduate of Stanford University and Harvard
Law School. He has provided legal advice to community organizations in
Missouri, Kansas, and in the state of Washington. Before entering
academia, Professor Verchick practiced law in Seattle, representing a
number of local governments (and private parties suing local
governments) in disputes related to environmental and constitutional
law. His written work focuses on environmental policy, environmental
justice and disaster law, and has appeared in many venues. Professor
Verchick is the author of an upcoming book on disaster and
environmental law, to be published by Harvard University Press.

Wendy Wagner is a Member Scholar of the Center for Progressive Reform,
the chair of the organization's Clean Science Issue Group, and is the
Joe A. Worsham Centennial Professor at the University of Texas School
of Law in Austin, Texas. She received her law degree from Yale Law
School. Before entering academia, Wagner served as an honors attorney
with the Environmental Enforcement section of the Environment and
Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and as
the pollution control coordinator in the Office of General Counsel of
the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Among Professor Wagner's recent publications are two books on which
she collaborated with other CPR Member Scholars: Bending Science: How
Special Interests Corrupt Public Health Research (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 2008) (with CPR Member Scholar and Director Thomas
O. McGarity); and Rescuing Science from Politics: Regulation and the
Distortion of Scientific Research (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 2006) (editor, with CPR President and Director Rena Steinzor).

James Goodwin J.D., M.P.P., works with CPR's "Clean Science" and
"Government Accountability" issue groups. James joined CPR in May of
2008. He earned his B.A. in Political Science from Kalamazoo College,
his J.D. (with a certificate in environmental law) from the University
of Maryland School of Law, and his M.P.P. (with a concentration in
environmental policy) from the University of Maryland School of Public
Policy. Prior to joining CPR, Mr. Goodwin worked as a legal intern for
the Environmental Law Institute and EcoLogix Group, Inc. He is a
published author with articles on human rights and environmental law
and policy appearing in the Michigan Journal of Public Affairs and the
New England Law Review (co-author with Armin Rosencranz).

End Notes

[Because this is an excerpt from the longer report, most of the end
notes have been omitted.]

COMMUNITIES: 2005, 39, available at http://www.lungusa2.org/embargo/

[13] Physicians for Social Responsibility -- Los Angeles, Childhood
Lead Poisoning Prevention Act of 2007:

Background Information, http://actionnetwork.org/ psr_la/alert-
description.tcl?alert_id=10964644 (last visited Oct. 3, 2008).

[14] Kathryn R. Mahaffey et al., Blood Organic Mercury and Dietary
Mercury Intake: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999
and 2000, 112 ENVTL. HEALTH PERSP. 562 (2004).

WHEN DEVELOPING CLEAN AIR RULES, GAO-05-289 (July 2005), available at
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05289.pdf; U.S. GOV'T ACCOUNTABILITY
available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071140t.pdf.

[16] Electric Utility Steam Generating Units, 70 Fed. Reg. 28,606,
28,648 (May 18, 2005) (emphasis added).

[17] Exec. Order No. 13175, 65 Fed. Reg. 67,249 (Nov. 6, 2000)
(establishing procedures for executive agency consultation and
coordination with Indian Tribal Governments).


To see more of CPR's work or to contribute, visit CPR's website at .

Center for Progressive Reform, 104 Colony Crossing Edgewater, MD 21037
202-289-4026 (phone) 202-289-4402 (fax)

Return to Table of Contents


  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
  Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are
  often considered separately or not at all.

  The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  
  because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who
  bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human
  health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the
  rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among
  workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy,
  intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and
  therefore ruled by the few.  

  In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who
  gets to decide?" And, "How do the few control the many, and what
  might be done about it?"

  As you come across stories that might help people connect the dots,
  please Email them to us at d...@rachel.org.
  Rachel's Democracy & Health News is published as often as
  necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the

  Peter Montague - pe...@rachel.org

Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 160, New Brunswick, N.J. 08903
Allen antworten
Dem Autor antworten
0 neue Nachrichten