Definitive injustice

Published: Thursday 15 September 2005

The us Environmental Protection Agency (epa) recently raised concerns by drafting a strategic plan on environmental justice that specifically cuts references to race, income, and some other crucial elements. Experts fear the new definition would not only push the environmental justice movement back by over a decade, but may effectively nullify the whole idea at the federal level.

epa proposes to define environmental justice as "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income." Critics believe the effects of the word 'regardless' could be devastating. Studies have for decades established that environmental concerns affect certain groups, particularly the poor, at a disproportionately high level. While many environmental groups in the us currently focus on marginalised communities, they fear they wouldn't be able to do so under the new regulations.

"Essentially what they're trying to do is not have an environmental justice programme," warns Will Rostov, an attorney with the us -based Communities for a Better Environment. In early August 2005, nearly 80 legislators sent a letter to epa, saying the change in language could be illegal. The agency hasn't responded yet. While epa's final plan won't come out until September 2006, it has also been criticised for allowing public comment on the proposal on an unusually short timeframe.

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