Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highlighted the release of the Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda (EJ 2020) at an event in North Charleston, S.C. The Chicora Neighborhood Council, the Union Heights Neighborhood Council, the Low Country Alliance for Model Communities (LAMC) and the Metanoia Community Development Corporation announced an agreement with Palmetto Railways to mitigate against potential impacts from the construction of the Navy Base Intermodal Facility at the former Charleston Navy Base. The agreement reflects the type of collaborative environmental justice efforts EPA Region 4 would like to showcase in communities throughout the Southeast over the next four years and beyond as part of its environmental justice strategic plan.
During the event, EPA also recognized two LAMC representatives, Herbert J. Fraser-Rahim and Omar Muhammad, who participated in the inaugural class of EPA Region 4’s EJ Academy. The EJ Academy is a rigorous 9-month leadership development program designed to cultivate skills participants can use to identify and address environmental challenges in their communities. Skills that Fraser-Rahim and Muhammad applied in negotiating the monumental $4 million dollar agreement for the construction of the Navy Base Intermodal Facility.
“Vibrant stakeholder engagement and partnerships are the backbone of EJ 2020 and essential to achieving meaningful outcomes for overburdened communities,” said Denise Tennessee, Director of EPA Region 4’s Office of Environmental Justice and Sustainability. “The agreement announced today is a win-win for community engagement, for the citizens in the State of South Carolina, and for all communities throughout the Southeast that face similar challenges.”
EJ 2020 will further integrate environmental justice considerations in all of the Agency’s programs, strengthen EPA’s collaboration with partners, and demonstrate progress on significant national challenges facing minority and low-income communities.
EJ 2020 builds on the foundation established by EPA’s previous strategic plan, Plan EJ 2014, as well as decades of significant environmental justice practice by the Agency, communities, and other environmental justice stakeholders.
The EJ 2020 Action Agenda has three overarching goals:
- Deepen environmental justice practice within EPA programs to improve the health and environment of overburdened communities.
- Work with partners to expand our positive impact within overburdened communities.
- Demonstrate progress on critical national environmental justice challenges.
Earlier this year, EPA released both the draft framework and final draft of the plan for public comment, and received thousands of comments from stakeholders and communities working on environmental justice. Additionally, Agency staff conducted over one hundred meetings across the country and held four national webinars to discuss the plan and answer stakeholder questions. EPA plans to continue its unprecedented level of dialogue with environmental justice stakeholders and governmental partners as it moves forward to implement the plan in the coming years.
Environmental justice is 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. EPA's goal is to provide an environment where all people enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to maintain a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. EPA works with all stakeholders to collaboratively address environmental and public health issues and concerns.
EPA's environmental justice mandate extends to all of the Agency's work, including setting standards, permitting facilities, awarding grants, issuing licenses, regulations and reviewing proposed actions by the federal agencies.