States Protest Environmental Justice Plan

Published May 1, 1998

Top state environmental officials have formally urged EPA to rescind the environmental justice interim guidance. On March 26, the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) passed a resolution saying, among other things, that EPA’s interim guidance would “conflict with state and local land-use policies, Brownfield cleanup and redevelopment, and urban revitalization efforts. This guidance would have the effect of working against efforts to achieve environmental protection and promote sustainable economic development.”

Russell Harding, director of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, was less diplomatic. “This reminds me of the movie ‘Titanic.’ We’re heading straight for the iceberg with Carol Browner at the helm,” he says. “This latest EPA absurdity spells disaster for environmental permitting, urban redevelopment and working families.”

EPA’s move comes at a time when state governments, in close cooperation with local communities, are forging ahead with plans to revitalize idle brownfield properties. Over 30 states have established programs to promote the cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield sites. Some states offer economic or other incentives to encourage the redevelopment of sites and return them to productive use. Already state programs have revitalized many inner cities, bringing jobs back to economically depressed areas.

Now, however, state officials who have devoted countless hours on efforts to inject new life into decaying neighborhoods find themselves completely ignored by the same EPA which has, for years, trumpeted its commitment to “partnership” with the states.