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Americans hear it every day: The environment is bad, and we need to change it. Life is not fair for minorities, and we need to help them. The Obama administration sees both of these mantras as united under a common cause: environmental justice. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denes environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of people, regardless of race, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. At the State of Environmental Justice Conference held April 4-5 in Crystal City, Va., people from both the public and private sectors met to discuss how to increase the role of this concept in federal policy a concept they admitted was broad. It covers inner infrastructure, it covers government, it covers public health, it covers social equity, it covers public participation, said Glenn Robinson, director of the Environmental Justice in Transportation Project at Morgan State University in Baltimore. But Paul Driessen, a senior fellow at the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, a nonpartisan think tank based in Bellevue, Wash., warned against using a buzzword such as environment to push policy. If somebody says, This is going to protect the environment, lots of folks are reluctant to stand up and ask any questions about that. But I dont think theyve given a very good review of the negative effects, he said. For years, special-interest groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club have changed the American business landscape under the premise of advancing environmental justice. But in many cases, those changes have done more harm than good for the people they are designed to protect. Mr. Driessen recounted a case from 1998, when Shintech Inc. had planned to build a plastics factory in the poor, black community of Convent,

La. Sierra Club activists opposed it, raising fears that dioxins from the factory could lead to increased cancer rates among minority residents there. EPA denied approval of a construction permit, so the company built its factory in a largely white community in nearby Plaquemine instead. The company had been expected to bring 2,000 jobs to Convent, Mr. Driessen said. Not only did those people lose the chance for employment, but they also lost the health care benets that would have come with those jobs. You are denying people the jobs and better living standards and better health that comes from that, he said. Where is the environmental justice in denying them access to those things? Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and of Project 21, a network of black conservatives, remembers speaking with residents of Convent. Folks were very upset, a lot of folks that had come from hundreds of miles away, he said. A lot of do-gooders came in, were successful in shutting down the plant, and scores of families who depended on the plant for their livelihoods were left without jobs. The Sierra Club never actually had to prove its cancer claims to prevent the factory from being built. In fact, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said in a July 1997 environmental impact statement that dioxins were never detected [. . .] from these manufacturing facilities. Mr. Driessen said this is not an unusual outcome, and that he often questions data from what he considers to be biased environmental groups including the EPA itself. The EPA has massaged data and ignored many studies, he said. As an example, he pointed to the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, which provides independent advice to the EPA, according to a statement on the agencys website. However, in March, revealed that six of the seven members on the committee have received or are still receiving large research grants from EPA, according to the agencys grant database. Some members have received tens of millions of dollars in government grants. Since it succeeded in blocking that factory in 1998, the Sierra Club has become even more active in its pursuit of environmental justice. Rachele Huennekens, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Clubs Beyond Coal Campaign, explained the organiza-


Noah Tickle of Roanake County, Va., walks through the crowd with a large sign during a pro-coal rally in Abingdon, Va., on June 2.

tions aggressive plans to shut down power plants across the United States. Theres actually 500 coal power plants currently in the U.S., and the Beyond Coal Campaign is seeking to close at least a third of the coal plant eet by 2020, she said. 109 have been retired so far. But not every community wants those plants shut down, Mr. Kirsanow said. I think youve got to look at both sides, he said. Y ouve got all these regulations that I think are well intended. Then, on balance, ask yourself whats best. A lot of those folks would prefer to have the job as opposed to shutting down the plant because of some speculative environmental concern, Mr. Kirsanow said. Mr. Kirsanow cited his own childhood experience as an example. He said he is thankful that he grew up next to a steel mill because it provided his and other minority families with jobs. We did have a lot of smoke and things like that but that job provided our family with the income and medical doctors to advance so my father could send me to an Ivy League school. Its not just nonprofit groups like the Sierra Club increasing devotion to the cause of environmental justice. The federal government has stepped up its efforts, too. President Obama encouraged Congress last month to renew tax credits to continue expanding clean wind energy. According to his campaign website, electricity generation from wind has more than

doubled during his presidency. Ms. Huennekens hailed wind power as an alternative form of energy that avoids the negative effects of dirty coal. But Mary Kay Barton, an environmental advocate, retired health educator and resident of Castile, N.Y., disagrees. The town of Castile lies within Wyoming County, home to hundreds of wind turbines, which she said ruin the quality of life that environmental justice claims to protect. Ms. Barton said one neighbor has to leave his home and drive to another town every night to sleep because the turbines give him headaches and raise his blood pressure. Ecosystems were destroyed to build the turbines, she said, and the windmills are hurting home values in her community. Would you buy a home that was now surrounded by 250 industrial wind turbines? she asked. I used to be a member of Sierra Club. I raised my kids in cloth diapers, for crying out loud. I am all about saving the environment. They say that this is about environmental justice, but this is the biggest travesty to the environment that has ever gone down because it doesnt do anything that they claim. Both Mr. Driessen and Ms. Barton pointed out that since wind turbines require large quantities of rare metals as well as fossil fuels to process, ship and install them, it is misleading to call that energy source green or clean. Deneen Borelli, a Fox

News Channel contributor and a fellow with Project 21, said green energy is not about the environment as much as it is about redistribution of wealth. Our tax dollars are being used for the green energy industry, really being wasted . . . and were also paying on the other end with higher energy prices. Its regressive. [. . . ] Those who are least able to afford higher energy prices are paying on both ends of the spectrum. Ms. Borelli said American wealth is also being redistributed overseas, citing environmentalists recent defeat of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and Canadas subsequent efforts to export its oil to Asian markets. If we dont use that resource, it will go to China, she said. Sadly, we have a president who is trying to lower our standard of living and prop up the standard of living in other countries. Dr. Darryl B. Hood, a professor of neuroscience and pharmacology at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., opened the environmental justice conference on April 4 by calling on Americans to take on the problems of the world. We must begin to view environmental justice through a global health prism, he said. The goal of global health is the health of all people, all nations. Kim Lambert, environmental justice coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, agreed that environmental justice must have greater inuence on federal policy. Ms. Lambert said Obama invited her and others to the White House a few weeks into his presidency to brief him on the subject. She said that while he had expressed extreme devotion to the cause, she was disappointed that this had not yet translated into sufciently extreme policies. We were under the impression some things were going to happen, she said. Were not there. Perhaps she should be patient. EPAs website details the future of the movement in its Plan EJ 2014, which promises to re-evaluate environmental justice legislation in 2014 after Obamas re-election. In 2014, EPA will make an assessment of its progress in achieving the goals of Plan EJ 2014, a statement on the agencys website states. Based on this assessment, EPA will produce a report on the accomplishments, lessons learned, challenges, and next steps for continuing the Agencys efforts to make environmental justice an integral part of every decision.