100 days: Pollution threatens marginalized communities

Environmental justice concerns may not get the attention they deserve.

 

This Saturday will mark Trump’s 100th day in office. In collaboration with our partners at Climate Desk, we took a look at what his administration has accomplished and what the implications are for climate change and the environment out West and across the country.

This article was originally published by the , and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk Collaboration.

On Thursday, environmentalists and a handful of congressional Democrats gathered at the U.S. Capitol to launch the United for Climate Task Force, a new group for marginalized communities who are facing new threats to the air they breathe and the water they drink. It was Day 98 of Donald Trump’s presidency, and the timing doesn’t appear to have been an accident. As the president’s first 100 days in office draw to a close, environmentalists have grown increasingly alarmed at the administration’s efforts to eliminate regulations and cut programs that promote environmental justice.

From the start, the Trump administration made clear that it planned to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency. Most notably, the White House has proposed massive budget cuts that could fundamentally change the way agency operates. “Over the past few months we’ve seen how quickly this administration is rolling back progress we’ve made on the environment,” Rep. Pramila Jayapral (D-Wash.) said at the Thursday event. “Budget cuts to the EPA will devastate communities of color across the country.” Indeed, people of color and low-income communities from toxic spills, hazardous air, and dirty drinking water, according to the Center for American Progress.

Mustafa Ali, the longtime head of the agency’s Office of Environmental Justice, in March. Ali, whose office was charged with reducing the disproportionate environmental dangers facing marginalized groups, told Mother Jones at the time that the administration’s actions sent “a signal that communities with environmental justice concern may not get the attention they deserve.” Weeks later, the obtained a 64-page budget memo from the EPA detailing a slew of proposed cuts. They included the outright elimination of the environmental justice office.

In its rush to gut the EPA, the Trump administration also proposed designed to limit children’s exposure to lead-based paint, which can cause brain damage. One program focuses on training workers in the removal of lead-based paint; the other is public education campaign about the risk. Lead-based paint was , but it's still common in houses built before then and can be often found in poor and predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods. The EPA estimates that 38 million homes contain lead paint.

Protestors gather for the 2014 People Climate March.

The administration has also proposed cutting funding for the cleanup of Superfund sites, which are some of the most polluted places in the country. could leave millions of people, many of them in marginalized communities, with little hope that the toxic waste polluting their neighborhoods will ever be removed. In East Chicago, where a Superfund site is causing multiple problems, activists were angered when EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who visited the city earlier this month, with residents and environmental justice groups about the cleanup and other environmental issues.

A hamstrung EPA is not the only concern of environmental justice activists. The White House dealt a particularly stinging blow to indigenous communities with the stroke of a pen. One of Trump’s first actions in office was  to expedite the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The 1,172 mile-long pipeline will carry crude oil from North Dakota, through the Standing Rock Sioux’s land. If the pipeline were to leak, it could threaten the tribe’s water source. The tribe and its allies began fighting the pipeline’s construction in 2015 but faced a serious setback after Trump signed the order and a federal judge refused to halt construction. Earlier this month, a that the developers could keep some information about spill risks secret. North Dakota has averaged four pipeline spills per year since 1996.

Meanwhile, Congress has waged its own assault on environmental justice initiatives. Less than a month into Trump’s term, congressional Republicans an Obama-era rule intended to prevent coal-mining debris from polluting of streams. That pollution primarily impacts poor and rural Americans living in Appalachia. Trump eagerly signed the repeal legislation.

Despite these defeats, environmental justice advocates are digging in for a long fight. “There’s been a disparity of treatment,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said at the Thursday press conference. Communities of color, he added, “tend to be forgotten, and the well-being of this nation depends on the those communities.”

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor of Native Americans and the News Media The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is...
  • AWF seeks an energetic Marketing and Communications Director. Please see the full job description at https://azwildlife.org/jobs
  • The Southwest Communications Director will be responsible for working with field staff in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico to develop and execute detailed communication plans...
  • An intentional community designed for aging in place. Green built with Pumice-crete construction (R32), bamboo flooring, pine doors, T&G ceiling with fans, and maintenance free...
  • (CFROG) is a Ventura County, CA based watch-dog and advocacy non-profit organization. cfrog.org
  • Take your journalism skills to the next level and deepen your understanding of environmental issues by applying for the 2019-2020 Ted Scripps Fellowships in Environmental...
  • WINTER WILDLANDS ALLIANCE POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT: EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Winter Wildlands Alliance seeks an experienced and highly motivated individual to lead and manage the organization as Executive...
  • The San Juan Mountains Association is seeking a visionary leader to spearhead its public lands stewardship program in southwest Colorado. For a detailed job description...
  • The Cascade Forest Conservancy seeks a passionate ED to lead our forest protection, conservation, education, and advocacy programs.
  • Mountain Pursuit is a new, bold, innovative, western states, hunting advocacy nonprofit headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming. We need a courageous, hard working, passionate Executive Director...
  • The Draper Natural History Museum (DNHM) at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of the West in Cody, WY, invites applications for the Willis McDonald, IV...
  • Couple seeks quiet, private, off-grid acreage in area with no/low cell phone service and no/low snowfall. Conservation/bordering public lands a plus. CA, OR, WA, ID,...
  • 20mi N of Steamboat Springs, majestic views, aspen forest, year-round access, yurt, septic, solar electric, seasonal ponds, no covenants, bordering National Forest. Ag status. $449K....
  • Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring for two positions: Communications & Development Manager/Director (remote work possible) and a Deputy Director...
  • Former northern Sierra winery, with 2208 sq.ft. commercial building, big lot, room to expand.
  • The dZi Foundation is seeking a FT Communications Associate with a passion for Nepal to join our team in Ridgway, Colorado. Visit dzi.org/careers.
  • Available now for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojaidigital.net.
  • Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • Suitable for planting hay, hemp, fruit. Excellent water rights. 1800 square foot farmhouse, outbuildings, worker housing.