EPA Criticized Over Environmental Justice Methodology

Date: March 8, 2010

Source: News Room

The EPA is drawing criticism for its recently released "Draft Environmental Justice Methodology" for analyzing the potential impacts of its controversial definition of solid waste (DSW) rule on low-income and minority communities. During a Feb. 23 EPA roundtable discussion, Vernice Miller-Travis, a former member of the agency's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), said "the draft EJ Methodology will need serious revision if it's going to a pass the test of encouraging recycling." Under the proposed methodology, EPA would consider it a benefit from an environmental justice standpoint if the DSW rule leads to hazardous materials being recycled rather than sent for disposal or destruction at facilities more likely, the reasoning goes, to be located in minority communities. However, Miller-Travis argues that the premise ignores the fact that the recycling facilities receiving these materials are even more likely to be located near low-income and minority communities. Moreover, communities that host recycling facilities are less likely to be involved in siting them if materials that once were subject to rigorous permit proceedings are exempted under the rule. "This DSW exclusion will give the community no understanding of and no voice in saying where reclamation materials are sent," she says.

Jane Williams, of California Communities Against Toxics, said during the hearing that she was concerned that a lack of adequate financial assurance requirements for recyclers under the DSW rule could lead to the creation of new Superfund sites where the burden for paying for cleanup is shifted to the taxpayer rather than the polluters.

David Case, of the Environmental Technology Council raised the concern that states would likely not accept the DSW rule with so much disagreement among stakeholders.

To read the draft report, visit: www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/dsw/.

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