WARRENTON, NC – September 26, 2022 – On September 24th, Michael Regan, the head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the first Black man to run the agency, met with environmental justice and civil rights leaders in Warren County, North Carolina, to announce the creation of the EPA Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights. The new Office will distribute $3 billion in grants to underserved communities burdened by pollution. These funds are from the recent Inflation Reduction Act and support environmental justice.
The timing of this announcement was significant because it represented the forty-year anniversary of a grassroots effort against having a hazardous waste landfill of cancer causing and immune system suppressing chemical waste in their predominantly Black-community in Warren County. This location is widely considered the birthplace of the environmental justice movement where protesters were arrested at the site of a toxic waste dump.
The agency wants to better address the disproportionate harm that climate change and pollution has caused low resource areas and communities of color. This reorganization will make achieving racial equity a bigger factor in developing environmental rules. Environmental justice means that all people including vulnerable populations have an equal right to protection from environmental and health hazards.
Three smaller midlevel offices will be combined into this new high-level office. It will be at the same high administrative level of the air, water and chemical pollution offices. A senate-confirmed leader will report directly to head of the EPA. The staff will be comprised of 200 people spread amongst 10 regional offices, a substantial increase from 55 people.
As told to the New York Times, Dollie Burwell, who was arrested at the Warren County dump in 1982 and is sometimes called the mother of environmental justice, said she saw the creation of the office “as another milestone to those of us who made sacrifices and went to jail, that somebody’s listening.”
North Carolina is presently dealing with numerous environmental pollutants including hog waste, coal ash, arsenic, plastic and Styrofoam debris.
Listen to the full report below:
Contact: Dick Needleman, Health reporter, 103.3 AshevilleFM, email@example.com