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Region 1: EPA New England

Environmental Justice News - May 2011, Issue 13


New EPA Grant to Support Community-Based Action for a Healthier Environment

The city of Springfield, Mass. just got a boost in its efforts to decrease toxins from air, land and water. The city received an $85,000 Community Action for Renewed Environment, or CARE, grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support efforts in Western Massachusetts to reduce toxic pollution in the environment. CARE is a competitive grant program that offers communities an innovative way to address the risks from multiple sources of toxic pollution. Unlike other programs, CARE is focused on all types of exposure, including air, water or land, whether indoors and outdoors. CARE grants allow let communities to identify their greatest needs and choose the best solution.

EPA has developed the Community-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool (C-FERST) — a GIS & resource access Web tool to support cumulative human exposure and risk screening assessments, and help build sustainable, healthy communities. It is designed to assist communities with the challenge of identifying and prioritizing issues, and making decisions about exposures and risks within their communities. C-FERST has been developed to work in collaboration with CARE projects.  Springfield, Mass., Portland, Maine, and Brooklyn, NY are three of the cities selected to work with EPA scientists to test and refine this tool.

In 2009, about 3.2 million pounds of chemicals were emitted into the environment in Massachusetts. Sixty percent of that was emitted into the air. Sufficient concentrations and durations of exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment - including in the air, in ground water and from household and food sources - have been shown to raise risks for cancer and other serious health effects.

This CARE grant, also referred to as a Level I Cooperative Agreement, will help Springfield residents assess environmental threats and set priorities for reducing environmental risks in the community. The grant has resulted in the formation of the “Healthy Environment, Healthy Springfield” coalition, which is dedicated to reducing toxic pollutants and environmental risks locally. Lead organizers of the coalition include the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition; Partners for a Healthier Community; Springfield Mayor’s Office; Springfield Department of Parks, Buildings, and Recreation Management; Springfield Partners for Community Action; University of Massachusetts School of Public Health & Health Sciences; and the Springfield Renaissance School.

The coalition plans to educate residents about potential sources of exposure to toxic pollutants and then work with them to reduce risks. Some steps that reduce exposure to toxins can have other environmental and community benefits. These steps may include more recycling, expanding green space and productive gardens by reclaiming vacant lots, using more renewable energy and ‘greening’ industry.

To learn more about the CARE program, visit www.epa.gov/care. To learn more about the C-FERST project, visit: http://www.epa.gov/heasd/c-ferst/

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White House EJ Forum & Regional Listening Sessions

Five Cabinet secretaries and senior officials from a wide range of federal agencies and offices participated in the first White House Forum on Environmental Justice.  More than 100 environmental justice leaders from across the country attended the day-long event on Dec. 15. The forum highlighted initiatives already underway in the federal government that affect environmental justice communities. The forum also gave environmental justice and community leaders as well as officials from state, local and tribal governments a chance to talk with administration officials about environmental justice. These leaders offered their vision for healthier and more sustainable communities during panel discussions.

As a follow-up to the White House Forum, EPA working with other federal agencies and local organizations in the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group will gather information from community stakeholders through listening sessions in every region across the country. These sessions will build on the conversations that began at the White House Forum and enable communities and groups with limited resources to participate in a discussion in their local communities and to get their views heard by former Administrator Lisa Jackson.

By the end of this process, communities should be more informed about resources available to them, and also know better how to access these resources to help their communities. Regional EPA offices, through their environmental justice coordinators, will let community members and EPA staff know about any upcoming listening sessions. 

Proposed stakeholder meetings for EPA New England will be held at the:

  • New England Asthma Regional Council meeting, May 17, 2011 from 1 to 4 p.m. (location to be determined), and
  • American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Standing Committee on the Environment meeting, Boston June 20-24 , 2011(exact date to be determined)

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New Hampshire Environmental Justice Case Study: Reducing Hazardous Air Pollutants in Rochester

Painting at an auto body shop.

Auto body shops are widespread and tend to cluster in minority and low income neighborhoods. Most auto body shops are small businesses whose emissions are below air emission thresholds. Federal law does not require that they obtain an air permit. However, auto body shops do release hazardous air pollutants and some auto body shops do not comply with accepted industry practices or control technologies. Rochester, located in southeastern New Hampshire, has a population of almost 31,000.  It is the largest city in the seacoast region and the fourth largest city in New Hampshire encompassing 48 square miles. Rochester also is home to 10 auto body shops.

In 2008, the EPA promulgated national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants for area sources engaged in paint stripping, surface coatings of motor vehicles and mobile equipment and miscellaneous surface coatings.  This new rule requires auto body shops to reduce air pollution of metals such as chromium, lead, cadmium, manganese, and nickel compounds emitted from auto body painting. These compounds pose health risks to anyone who breathes air when these fumes are present. Through best management practices, which include installing and maintaining control equipment and attending painter certification classes, auto body shops are required to reduce hazardous air pollutants to the environment and humans. 

In 2010, the NH Department of Environmental Services (DES) visited many of the auto body shops in the Rochester area and noted that some of these shops did not have proper ventilation systems or control technologies. In order to help auto body shops meet the Jan. 10, 2011 compliance deadline, the Small Business Technical Assistance Program of DES offered workshops, handed out publications, put up web pages, and made one-on-one site visits. In 2011, the Small Business Technical Assistance Program will follow up with these auto body shops to see if they meet the requirements and reduced hazardous air pollutants. For more information, go to: http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/p2au/sbtas/sbtap/auto-body/index.htm

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Consider Joining the New England Environmental Justice Forum

A new initiative is underway that is designed to bring people and organizations working on environmental justice issues in New England closer together.  This initiative, the New England Environmental Justice forum, is a collaborative effort of two environmental justice organizations, Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) and the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice (CCEJ), as well as Rhode Island Legal Services. The forum is meant to bring together EJ advocates from across New England to share ideas, learn from one another, and plan future work.  It is especially focused on learning about what legal and technical help communities need and will try to match local groups with resources. In the next year, the forum will sponsor trainings in at least two locations in New England, followed by a day-long New England Environmental Justice Summit. The forum is seeking volunteers to join the summit planning committee.  To get involved, please contact the lead organizations at: neejforum@gmail.com

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Office Update

EPA New England EJ Office has a New Team Member

Heather Ross joined EPA's New England's EJ team in January. Heather comes from the Massachusetts State House where she was the legislative director for State Rep. Byron Rushing working on social justice and civil rights issues. Heather has worked with environmental justice community-based organizations in Massachusetts and New York. She earned her bachelor's degree in environmental science and policy from Duke University and her master's degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University. Heather will be working on the Environmental Justice Small Grants program and supporting the work of the EJ office as it continues to ensure that EPA New England is engaging its community and state partners as well as integrating environmental justice into all of its programs, policies and activities.

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EPA New England's Urban Environmental Program has a New Website

EPA New England’s Urban Environmental Program has launched a new website at: http://www.epa.gov/region1/eco/uep/index.html. The mission of the Urban Environmental Program is to improve the environment and enhance the quality of life for urban residents in New England by building community capacity to assess and resolve environmental problems, achieving measurable and sustainable improvements in cities, and restoring and revitalizing urban neighborhoods. The program works to address environmental and public health concerns in urban areas throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Visit the website to read about the Urban Environmental Program’s work including the Climate Change in Urban Communities Initiative and the Healthy Communities Grant Program. You will also find community tools and contact information for program staff.

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Bridgeport Showcase Community Update

EPA has committed $1 million to help alleviate the environmental and human health challenges facing 10 American communities. The EJ Showcase Communities effort pools the resources and expertise of governmental and non-governmental organizations on the best ways to make a difference in EJ communities. EPA New England selected the city of Bridgeport, Conn. as its EJ Showcase Community Pilot. EPA plans to develop projects in that city focused on improving indoor air quality, increasing community capacity for green jobs, increasing recycling rates, and reducing asthma and toxic exposure. To learn more about the showcase communities across the country, go to: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/ej/grants/ej-showcase.html

The city of Bridgeport has made a commitment to be a leader in addressing environmental issues. The EPA-funded projects in Bridgeport align with Mayor Bill Finch’s B-Green 2020 project, a comprehensive program to decrease carbon emissions, green the city, promote green jobs and technology, and ensure improved social and health benefits to its communities.

2011 Success and Proposed Work for EPA’s Bridgeport Showcase Community

  • School based paper recycling pilots in two Bridgeport elementary schools have resulted in the diversion of more than 5,000 pounds of paper from the waste stream. Local EJ advocates have identified recycling as an important strategy in improving asthma rates by reducing the amount of waste incinerated. The Bridgeport Board of Education and City of Bridgeport will seek to expand recycling in all Bridgeport Schools based on the success of these pilots. 
  • Environmental Education for Bridgeport Youth - EPA will assist Save the Sound with teaching students from Bridgeport on field surface water/pipe sample collections techniques and water quality analysis at the locations in and around Bridgeport. EPA will provide at least 2 field people per sampling event as well as sampling equipment, containers with preservation as needed, gloves and safety glasses. 
  • Groundwork Bridgeport Stormwater Training – Groundwork Bridgeport youth participants are presently developing a community-based stormwater protection program for environmental justice communities. This will include developing a presentation, providing materials for distribution to residents and area businesses, and making four presentations to area groups.
  • EPA New England's Office of Assistance and Pollution Prevention helped organize a mattress recycling conference which led to establishing recycling operations last year.
  • Mattress Recycling - A mattress recycling facility that would create up to 15 jobs for ex-offenders and other unemployed people in Bridgeport may open for business in July. The business would recycle up to 100,000 mattresses a year from around the state. The facility is modeled after a charity-based organization on the West Coast that uses waste-based businesses to generate money for its charitable services. The revenues of the Bridgeport facility would also go toward nonprofit agencies, but the details are not final yet.


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EJ Highlights

Local Champion for Environmental Justice: Steve Fischer, Director of the Regional Environmental Council in Worcester, Mass.

Regional Environmental Council, a grassroots, environmental justice nonprofit organization in Worcester, MA has been dedicated to building healthy, sustainable and just communities in Worcester and beyond since 1971

Staff at EPA New England often get to work with dedicated advocates for environmental justice and environmental protection, local champions for environmental justice work. One of these local champions is Steve Fischer, director of the Regional Environmental Council (REC). Steve received EPA’s 2010 Environmental Merit Award for his work with the Worcester Lead Action Collaborative, a successful broad based community partnership for lead poisoning prevention coordinated by the REC.

Celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, the Regional Environmental Council (REC), a grassroots, environmental justice nonprofit organization in Worcester, MA (New England’s second largest city) has been dedicated to building healthy, sustainable and just communities in Worcester and beyond since 1971. The REC’s mission is to bring community members together to address environmental justice issues in the places where they live, work, learn, and play. In quiet corners throughout the city, in former brownfields, in schoolyards, on front steps, at the State House—the REC’s work is varied and promotes equitable access to healthy, affordable food, environmental health, and a sustainable and just urban environment through innovative programming, community organizing, public advocacy and education.

Through its Food Justice Program the REC has: employed and trained 30-50 youth each year since 2003 in organic urban agriculture.

Under Steve’s direction, the council runs several environmental justice initiatives. Through its Food Justice Program the REC has: employed and trained 30-50 youth each year since 2003 in organic urban agriculture, leadership development, and community engagement; established a network of 48 community & school gardens serving more than 400 gardeners throughout the city, reclaiming vacant lots and beautifying blighted areas; initiated and managed two full season farmers’ markets in two of Worcester’s lowest income neighborhoods; and coordinated an ongoing series of six-week nutrition-based cooking classes to empower low-income families. 

neighborhood clean-up

Through its Environmental Health and Justice Program the REC has: led a coalition of more than two dozen public and private agencies, grassroots community organizations and concerned residents to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in Worcester; achieved a 94% reduction in lead poisonings since 2005; developed grassroots community campaigns like the “Worcester Diesel Pollution Solution” to tackle the problem of diesel pollution as an asthma trigger and a contributor to global warming; helped scores of residents in Worcester’s low and moderate income neighborhoods access free energy assessments and weatherization and energy efficiency resources through its "Weatherize Worcester" initiative; and organized neighborhood clean-ups throughout the year, which has culminated in an annual citywide cleanup in honor of Earth Day, with more than 1,000 volunteers collecting trash at 65 sites.

Given all his work with the Regional Environmental Council and his dedication to continuing to find and cultivate new environmental leaders in Worcester, Steve Fischer easily earned the title of “local champion for environmental justice.”  To find out more about Steve and the Regional Environmental Council, go to: http://www.recworcester.org Click icon for EPA disclaimer. 

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EJ in America Conference, April 27-29

The EJ in America Conference, held April 27 – 29, 2011 in Washington, D.C., brought together a diverse group of individuals interested in environmental justice. Leaders from various sectors exchanged new ideas and new approaches to environmental justice. This interactive training session featured voices of experience, research, discussions, and thought-provoking dialogue on “Building a Clean Energy Economy with Equity.” The format featured needs and challenges of communities, governments, municipalities, tribes, faith-based organizations, and others with an interest in environmental matters and environmental justice. For a full list of the topics discussed, go to: http://www.ejconference.net/home.html Click icon for EPA disclaimer. 

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HQ Activities

Update on Implementation Plans for Plan EJ 2014

Plan EJ 2014 was named in recognition of the 20th anniversary of when President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898 – Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. It is a roadmap to help EPA integrate environmental justice into all of its programs, but it is not a rule or regulation. The plan highlights developing tools, working between agencies and program initiatives as three essential elements to advance environmental justice in the EPA and federal government. To accomplish the goals outlined in Plan EJ 2014, the EPA developed nine draft implementation plans that will guide the agency in rulemaking, permitting, compliance and enforcement, community work, administration action, science, law, information, and resources.

EPA’s Office on Environmental Justice posted the draft implementation plans for Plan EJ 2014 to EPA’s website in mid-March. Public comments for the drafts were due on April 29.  The Office of Environmental Justice will incorporate these comments into the implementation plans and finalize the plans by early summer. To review all of the draft implementation plans for Plan EJ 2014 go to: http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/plan-ej/index.html.

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National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Public Meeting, May 10-12, 2011, Brooklyn, NY

A meeting of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council was held May 10 to 12 in Brooklyn, NY. Topics for discussion during the meeting included: (1) an overview of the implementation plans for Plan EJ 2014; (2) EPA’s enforcement and compliance activities and the role of supplemental environmental projects; (3) an update from the Task Force for the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration; (4) discussion on EPA’s environmental justice outreach efforts; (5) EPA’s response to permitting recommendations from the Council; and (6) a discussion on local government concerns and priorities for environmental justice.

A detailed summary will be available at: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/ej/nejac/meetings.html

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Upcoming Events

Community Involvement Training Conference, Washington, D.C., July 19 to 21
EPA will hold its Community Involvement Training conference July 19 to 21. This dynamic conference brings together more than 450 people from EPA and its federal, state, tribal, and local partners who plan and put in place environmental community involvement, partnership, stewardship, outreach, and education programs. The theme for the 2011 conference is, "Community Involvement in the 21st Century: Embracing Diversity, Expanding Engagement, Utilizing Technology." It will feature plenary sessions with guest speakers, topical discussions, multiple 90-minute information sessions, and dozens of engaging and interactive three, four, and seven hour training sessions. To find out more go to: http://www.epa.gov/ciconference/

EJ Conference, Detroit, MI, August 22 to 26
Sponsored by the EPA, this conference brings together communities, tribes, advocates, city/county/state governments, colleges/universities, faith-based organizations, businesses and other stakeholders interested in learning about opportunities to move toward environmental justice in their communities.

Community Leaders Institute, Blackwell, SC, July 29 to 30
This is an event sponsored by the US Department of Energy that brings together stakeholders from across the spectrum, including community leaders, state/local government and industry representatives.

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Meeting, Albuquerque, NM, October 2011 (Date to be determined)
NEJAC will hold its next meeting in October 2011 in Albuquerque, NM. Details about the meeting will be posted at: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/ej/nejac/meetings.html

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EPA New England EJ Contacts

Sharon Wells (wells.sharon@epa.gov)
Acting Director, Office of Civil Rights & Urban Affairs

Amy Braz (braz.amy@epa.gov)
Environmental Justice Coordinator

Heather Ross (ross.heather@epa.gov)
Environmental Justice Specialist

Deborah Brown (brown.deborah@epa.gov)
Special Assistant and EJ Showcase Community Coordinator, Office of Civil Rights and Urban Affairs

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Web Resources

EPA New England
Environmental Justice Program Website

National Office of Environmental Justice

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council

National Office of Civil Rights

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State Contacts

Connecticut-Edith Pestana
Environmental Justice Administrator
Environmental Equity Program
CT Department of Environmental Protection
(860) 424-3044

Maine-Malcolm Burson
Office of the Commissioner
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
(207) 287-7755

Massachusetts-David Cash
Assistant Secretary for Policy
MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
(617) 626-1164

Massachusetts-Phil Weinberg
MA Department of Environmental Protection
(617) 292-5972

New Hampshire-Sherry Godlewski
NH Department of Environmental Services
(603) 271-6801

Rhode Island-Terry Gray
Assistant Director/Air, Waste and Compliance
RI Department of Environmental Management
(401) 222-4700 ext. 2422

Vermont-Donald Robisky
VT Department of Environmental Conservation
(802) 241-3734

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