Due to the lapse in appropriations, Department of Justice websites will not be regularly updated. The Department’s essential law enforcement and national security functions will continue. Please refer to the Department of Justice’s contingency plan for more information.

This is archived content from the U.S. Department of Justice website. The information here may be outdated and links may no longer function. Please contact webmaster@usdoj.gov if you have any questions about the archive site.

Making Environmental Justice a Reality

July 9, 2012
The following post appears courtesy of Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division Last week, I was honored to take part in the Colloquium on Environmental Justice held at the World Bank, where we honored the life’s work of Professor Svitlana Kravchenko, who sadly passed away earlier this year, but whose scholarly work on environmental governance lives on.  In her writings, she recognized “three pillars” of environmental democracy and procedural environmental rights:  access to information, public participation, and access to justice.  It was, therefore, fitting to recognize Dr. Kravchenko’s work as we discussed these topics in the context of the work of the Environment and Natural Resources Division at the Department of Justice.   In the Environment and Natural Resources Division, we are committed to working to protect all communities from environmental harms, including low-income, minority and Native American communities who too frequently live in areas overburdened by pollution. I have traveled throughout the United States to inner cities, Indian reservations, the Gulf States, the Border States, Appalachia, and rural America.  I can tell you first-hand that there are many communities who still do not enjoy the benefits of clean air, clean land and clean water.  In this land of plenty, children living in poverty are more likely to breathe polluted air and suffer from asthma, or live near toxic waste sites or landfills, or lack a safe source of drinking water. In the Environment Division, we have not forgotten communities who lack wealth, power or political influence.  Through our enforcement of the nation’s environmental laws, we continue to pursue the goals of environmental justice by working to ensure that all communities enjoy the benefit of a fair and even-handed application of the law and have a meaningful opportunity for input in the consideration of appropriate remedies for violations of the law.  For example, in August 2011, the department entered into a settlement with the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District in which it committed to make extensive improvements to its sewer system at an estimated cost of $4.7 billion over 23 years.  The Environment Division included the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, a local environmental group that intervened in the lawsuit, in the settlement negotiations with the sewer district.  As a result of consultation with community groups, environmental groups, and others, we achieved a settlement that includes a number of provisions that directly benefit the community. Because many of the areas that have sanitary sewer overflows and backups of sewage into buildings are in minority and low-income neighborhoods, the settlement requires the sewer district to spend $30 million over the next two years on construction projects to alleviate these problems. The settlement also requires the sewer district to assist low-income residents, who are currently connected to private septic tanks, by connecting their homes to the sewer system. We have achieved similar outcomes working with community groups in settling Clean Water Act cases with other cities and counties throughout the country, including in Kansas City, Missouri; Cleveland, Ohio; Jersey City, New Jersey; DeKalb County, Georgia; and Memphis, Tennessee. Under the leadership of President Barack Obama, the federal government has reaffirmed its strong commitment to the principles of environmental justice and has taken concrete steps to make environmental justice a reality.  Agencies across the federal government are dedicated to this endeavor.  At the Justice Department, Attorney General Holder has made it clear that:
“Our environmental laws and protections must extend to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status which is why the Department of Justice is committed to addressing environmental justice concerns through aggressive enforcement of federal environmental laws in every community.”
As the Assistant Attorney General of the Environment Division, I could not be more committed to this goal.  For more information on Environmental Justice at the Department visit  www.justice.gov/ej/ and read the 2011 Annual Implementation Progress Report on Environmental Justice (PDF).

Related blog posts

There are currently no blog posts matching your search terms.
Updated April 7, 2017