The Long Overdue Fight For Environmental Justice Communities.
By Richard Xu and Nabil Saad
People protest in an effort to make a difference on climate change regulation.
Let’s get this out of the way earnestly and spell out what the term “Environmental Justice”, or EJ, officially means. It’s defined as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”
Since the 1980s till today, minorities have been disproportionately exposed to harmful chemical emissions emanating from facilities purposely placed in their neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are commonly referred to as Environmental Justice communities. “Purposely” is not a random choice of word in this context. Since the pervasive discriminatory practice of red zoning in city planning, low income communities, that are by-and-large native, black, and brown, have been systematically targeted by unfair official practices to either drive them out of certain neighborhoods or to permit the co-location of polluting industrial settings. These harmful facilities include tanneries, oil & gas refineries, and/or chemical plants to list a few. Environmental Justice communities have been at the receiving end of the industrial pollution through their drinking water and the very air they breathe resulting in detrimental repercussions to their health and wellbeing. This ongoing pollution assault is tantamount to a silent atomic bomb.
However, there’s a glimpse of hope in the making. As of last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the new Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights office (EJCR) with a mandate to triple the previous employee headcount after combining the former Office of Environmental Justice, External Civil Rights Compliance Office, and Conflict Prevention and Resolution Center.
According to the EPA website, their responsibilities include:
Community Support: Matching grant funds to the communities that need it most, including more than $50 million in grant funding during fiscal year 2022, and providing technical assistance to communities in need.
Policy, Partnerships and Program Development: Ensuring consideration of equity, environmental justice and civil rights in EPA policies and programs in order to – in the words of the Administrator, “bake environmental justice and civil rights into the DNA of the Agency.”
External Civil Rights Compliance: Ensuring compliance and enforcement of federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination by applicants for and recipients of federal financial assistance from EPA; and
With the EJCR’s new responsibilities and more EPA regulations, these communities can hope for a better future for them and their families. The environmental injustices that they’ve been experiencing all along will no longer be invisible.
How is Nikira Labs helping with this cause? Nikira Labs manufactures state-of-the-art gas analyzers that detect the harmful chemicals in realtime at the fenceline of industrial plants located in EJ communities. This “watchdog” analyzer will immediately alert the operators and the regulators to non-compliant emissions for the root cause to be swiftly addressed. With Nikira Labs analyzers’ 24/7 real-time monitoring, the EJ communities will be environmentally protected and can stay in-the-know about their neighborhoods’ air quality.