P. O.

Box 750 Isla de Culebra, PR 00775 1-877-77CORAL / 1-877-77(2-6725) (o) 787-556-6234 (f) 212-428-6717 @email: info@coralations.org October 1, 2003 Charles Lee Director of the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), USEPA Headquarters, Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20460 Re: Recommendations for Plan EJ 2014 We are brought to this environmental justice table from the environmental conservation perspective, as our work is now primarily focused on partnerships with a traditionally underserved EJ community based on a US Caribbean, municipal island archipelago whose population depends strongly on their stellar coastal resources both for sustenance and as the backbone of a local nature tourism economy. The community of the traditionally underserved island of Culebra, has for the past two decades enjoyed a fairly good quality of life (low crime and unemployment) compared to coastal municipalities on the big island of Puerto Rico. This is largely due to the low profile, but high caliber, repeat nature tourists attracted to the peaceful community and Caribbean wilderness here. The isolation of the island has also limited much of the destructive overdevelopment, seen on other Caribbean islands, that typically increases economic disparity between the rich and poor. Today Culebra is coming into the focus of big island developers as the gold, or as is fashionable now to say “green” coast of Puerto Rico. Government plans devoid of meaningful public participation have been announced to grow Culebra into a “Riveria of the Caribbean.” Some of Puerto Rico’s ecologically important and protected green space is now being destroyed by greedy, aggressive and destructive land clearing practices, in some cases associated with federally funded projects and/or projects requiring federal permits that are moving ahead completely devoid of meaningful public participation. This is also occuring on lands littered with hazardous unexploded ordinance left by decades of US military and NATO target practice. The local people are being forced off-island and for the last few years crime, specifically drug trafficking, is openly flourishing. Greedy and unsustainable development practices are directly impacting the local EJ community of Culebra and the natural endowment on which they depend. While coastal and terrestrial resources enjoy multiple critical habitat designations, they fall within the jurisdiction of multiple local and Federal agencies in terms of oversight. This has resulted in agency regulators deflecting their oversight duties to other agencies as opposed to collaborating on providing timely, meaningful resolutions. The traditionally underserved do not have the resources necessary to litigate this injustice. Our last 15 years of environmental and social justice advocacy in Puerto Rico, specifically on the Caribbean island of Culebra, has taught us that such advocacy or even a voice is a luxury. A voice of any kind in

remote, underserved and impoverished communities is a luxury that our current local and federal Government system prefers to silence, and we are grateful for this renewed commitment and draft plan the agency is moving forward. We also hope that our contribution to this process will focus the attention of your committee on the island of Culebra as an environmental justice community at this critical crossroads in the island’s natural and social history. Today, both the stellar natural resources and local community are threatened by the common enemy of destructive unsustainable development practices that we will be moving to rectify through EJ. While we could not find the document online entitled "Incorporating Environmental Justice Concerns into the EPA Permitting Processes,." we are encouraged by the cross agency focus areas presented and believe both an interagency as well as cross agency approach is necessary. As important as considering Environmental Justice Concerns in EPA’s permitting process is, it is essential to incorporate these concerns into all Federal Agency permitting processes as well as Federal Agency Funding RFPs geared toward benefiting the traditionally underserved EJ communities. Perhaps that is what is meant by “fostering administration-wide action on environmental justice” and “incorporation EJ into rulemaking,” at least as far as the Federal permitting is concerned. Based on our interpretation, those two priorities may be redundant. Compliance Enforcement Transparency As advocates of this EJ community, we feel EPA could not work fast enough to rectify the compliance and enforcement issues here. Also, the single action of using newly available technologies to facilitate meaningful transparency would be a very strong tool to empower EJ advocates to take more proactive action that would likely minimize later need for costly compliance and enforcement oversight. This is because the crux of our injustice can be attributed to Government corruption. Transparency can help advocates already active and organized address this proactively. No more passing the buck among federal agencies or departments when there is evidence of a failure to comply. We should not have to bear the delay and expense of taking legal action against those who fail to comply or those who fail to enforce, because in this temporal framework the environment loses and therefore the traditionally underserved that depend on the environment lose as well. There should be robust mechanisms in place to deal with these issues before damage is done to the environment and/or human health. There should be sure and stiff penalties for those who do damage to public trust resources--not only to punish and to pay for remediation but, perhaps more importantly, as a warning to others to prevent future damage. Comments Specific to Cross Agency Focus The local people of Culebra have made extraordinary conservation and civil rights achievements. Possibly the most visible was in the mid seventies, when 750 families with the help of a young attorney ended the decades long practice of using the island of Culebra, its cays and by extension its inhabitants as a target for US and NATO military forces. The island remains contaminated. The Culebra Fishermen’s Association founded in 1965 played a major role in that victory and was the local organization responsible for establishing the first No Take Marine Protected Area in Puerto Rico’s waters as well as providing local support for the creation of the first successful coral farm in US Caribbean waters. These successes were all made against a tide of typical EJ community obstacles, making these accomplishments even more impressive. Based on our experience, for EJ principles to be implemented, EJ communities must appear on the map of all Federal Agencies and not just for permitting but also in actions, objectives, strategies and funding initiatives—through RFPs—of all Federal agencies. If agencies wish to realize meaningful community support and partnership with local EJ communities we recommend they eliminate the percentage of non-federal funding match requirements in federal


funding proposals for EJ communities. Further, local “green” job creation should be a requirement for all restoration proposals, as on our EJ island, we cannot rely on people to donate their boats, gas and time when volunteerism is a luxury that poor communities cannot afford. Our definition of “green” jobs involves well considered environmental restoration and does not refer to jobs created by incentives for well connected individuals to destroy sensitive habitat with poorly placed wind farms as is currently happening here. CORAlations has had to post its own human resource contributions as the non-federal match for many proposals, and this has stifled our ability to meaningfully grow the organization and help the community. Local organizations in EJ communities cannot donate work for free to demonstrate the non-federal match needed to propel or continue important restoration initiatives and therefore will always be out competed or swallowed up by the huge Washington connected NGOs like The Nature Conservancy, or in some cases private for profit contractors, now also invited to compete on environmental restoration proposals and also well connected in Washington RFP proposal writing circles. This is a problem because a small, local EJ org in a community can really reflect the values and understand the needs of the community whereas the large, centralized organization is likely to offend the community—driving meaningful social change backward. We have seen private contractors working in offices that draft RFPs that, in some cases, the contractors then bid on. Small NGOs that have the ability to make meaningful change in EJ communities obviously cannot compete in that environment without some special considerations, and those small orgs need to be valued for shared values and trust within the community. There seems to be a disconnect regarding the realities of propelling projects in EJ communities and agency managers in general. We see EJ lip service paid by agency personnel, but agency actions end up being very top down. For example after pushing for a community based management plan to be created for the No Take Marine Protected Area in Culebra, NOAA located funding and brought in consultants that ultimately pushed a plan through the Planning Board that never had a final formal public hearing. At one point they coordinated a public meeting with locals and relied on the local project leader to handle the meeting. Many fishermen showed up at the meeting because they were under the false impression that more areas were to be blocked off from fishing, and years of established trust was close to being compromised by that decision from a consultant who did not listen to our repeated and stated concerns about the meeting being handled by outsiders. Included in the final plan was administrative infrastructure that the community working groups that participated on the plan never saw. At one point the project leader was removed and replaced by a government contractor with no consult to Fishermen who held the third space on the steering committee. RFPs and all other actions must reflect more than a verbal commitment to community participation by government, even when it’s not easy, because it’s never easy! Where management plans are concerned this is particularly relevant because lack of local government oversight means we’re completely reliant on community compliance and this doesn’t happen unless the community is meaningfully engaged and accepting of the process…not just given the appearance of local community engagement. In the above instance, no one solicited working groups’ perceptions of how the process went and, while we needed a management plan and are grateful for the move to fund and produce one, we are also now stuck with a plan that isn’t adhered to. The lesson of this experience is that Environmental Justice, Meaningful Community Participation, Community based or cooperative management initiatives must be more than just buzzwords and empty rhetoric. Reduce or Eliminate Non Federal Match for proposals that benefit EJ communities. By forgoing non-federal matching funds for projects in EJ communities, and those proposed by EJ groups, the Government could help local economies directly while meaningfully engaging with communities beyond a given environmental restoration project. These projects involve hands on education and training with very long-term benefits to communities as a whole. This facilitates the direct behavioral change and social benefit EJ community’s need. Contrast this to what happens currently, say the same amount of money going into


production of an educational brochure with bullets recommending behaviors meant to inspire altruistic behavior necessary to protect a threatened natural resource. This educational information typically or possibly unavoidably sounds elitist or imperialistic because the origins are likely disconnected from basic values of the community. The brochure ends up in a landfill or worse, serves as a template for what not to do. Behavioral changes are learned behaviors and poor communities with compromised environments need jobs. The opportunity in restoration projects therefore is to meaningfully employ and engage locals. Meaningful long-term partnerships are achieved through collaborative work as opposed to imperialistic educational approaches. Federal agencies should also look to drafting RFPs geared at transition to sustainable initiatives for EJ communities. For example, we work on a coral farm, but the farm produces no marketable product with the exception of an educational tourist experience. RFPs for these kinds of restoration projects could be drafted to guide project outcomes to end with sustainable initiatives that directly engage and continue to support the local EJ communities economically, where projects are defined toward long term conservation, restoration and to move into long term job creation initiatives. The work of private federal contractors and the work of small NGOs must be valued equally and standardized on proposals of the same education and job description. Job creation and related hands on education and stakeholdership must also be included in calculations of valued outcomes for EJ communities. Another recent lesson learned here involves two different proposals for almost the same project. Recently we were forced to support local partners (an excellent local organization known as SAM) submitting a proposal for a project RFP through a huge NGO, intimately partnered with NOAA, and for which we (CORALations) have serious ethical conflicts. Because of the financial situation of our community and partners, we felt we had no option. We also applied for funding for almost the same project through a huge NGO partnered with NOAA and for which we have similar ethical values. Through the course of budgeting we were able to compare the project dependent on volunteers for non-federal match and the other which included meaningful local job creation. We looked to the standard industrial rate of pay for restoration work done in creating a budget for the project. NOAA informed us that they believe the project with volunteers as non-federal match proposed by SAM will likely get funded, while NOAA indicated the other project that used standard industrial rate of pay, even with half of this value donated by workers as non federal match, and even with the meaningful job creation component, was for them perceived as excessive for the deliverables. The volunteers from the first project proposal come from a university student population off island that are certified to dive by partner organization SAM, in exchange for their work on the farm. This involves an extraordinary contribution by SAM. The second proposal sought to create local jobs directly in our small island community of Culebra and associated with a local vocational training program. This option would also not exist if not for extraordinary effort and contribution by SAM. It appears there may not be a standard yet established for these restoration jobs, but the private contractor rate for the same job description and no degree was literally hundreds of dollars per day higher than what we ever valued ourselves (degreed professionals) or our non technical workers on any previously funded proposals. While we are grateful that consideration is being given to fund at least one of these two proposals to continue the coral farming project, the lesson learned is that those reviewing RFPs do not value contributions of small NGOs in EJ communities at the same rate that they pay private contractors to do the same work. They did not value job creation or economic benefit to local communities or community stakeholdership in restoration activities. This is backwards as local community engagement in restoration projects is both a conservation and economic imperative for EJ communities in the future. Regarding restoration opportunities, it is outrageous to see Federal Agencies continue to rely on Responsible Party to rectify massive environmental damage, when “responsible” parties bring in their own private consultants, that may not even be qualified to handle the restoration jobs and cannot be controlled by agencies to meet environmental standards of restoration. This was well exposed by the


Deep Horizon-dispersant response, and engagement of fishermen communities in clean up as affected parties in general. We have specific cases that illustrate this as well if you are interested. The point being that many a local emergency restoration job opportunity is lost to big money contractors, when we work for a decade to train a team of locals in EJ communities capable of faster response in their region and from what I understand, with more successful results. We actually saw a video of government contractors planting coral upside down at a restoration site where an oil tanker had grounded and damaged reef on our South coast. Restoration emergency response is another area that requires inclusion that can benefit EJ communities since its predictable that, based on the definition of EJ community, they are likely to one day be an affected party. Every new disaster today will be another emergency planning “Groundhog Day,” without a plan to address this failing. Consistent with the US Coastal Zone Management Act, which defines the entire island of Culebra as being within the Coastal Zone, and given that by definition, the entire island encompasses fragile volcanic terrain that can pose an impact to federally listed critical habitat coastal waters, we ask that no project that is either Federally funded or requires federal permits for the island, be exempted or categorically excluded from requirements of an environmental impact study and that transparency and meaningful public participation is rectified. Specifically, we are concerned by blanket permits recently discovered and drafted by DOI USFWS Caribbean Field Officer Edwin Muñiz, also formerly of the Antilles Section of the US Army Corps of Engineers, creating a blanket exclusion for ESA compliance for Federally Funded projects for all of Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. This in a place where fragile and protected resources are in many cases the tourism attraction that buoys the islands nature tourism economies. This blanket exemption was discovered when used on Culebra in support of a HUD Funded strip-style shopping mall that, if locals enjoyed their rights of meaningful public participation, they would tell you is exactly what is not needed on the island and in fact not only impacts listed species but the overall tourism product which is the island itself. The strip mall project was discovered when allocation of federal funds was announced in a local newspaper. Two different numbers existed for the project, in some cases in conjunction with a description of a bicycle trail. Transparency: Request for Immediate Action Finally and specific to the island of Culebra, Federally funded and/or projects requiring Federal permits are impacting coastal protected resources important to local subsistence fishing community and backbone of nature tourism economy with no meaningful public participation. With no additional expense, the agency can place a greater burden on permit petitioners to show how they have incorporated meaningful public participation into their process. Current procedures are inadequate--simply ticking off a box or showing a few names on a form is not sufficient proof of community input. Thanks to expanding internet technologies even in our remote underserved region, we ask your help today in the immediate restoration of transparency regarding these and future projects by requiring all such projects proposed to the agency be posted online and announced to interested parties today. This would be a measurable remedy that likely will reduce, through meaningful empowerment of the local EJ community, your overall agency burden of oversight. Support: Immediate Action Requested We need a direct link to the EPA, and to information about federal money for programs aimed at improving human health and our environment. It is only with the EPA's active support that we can effectively protect our communities against large and well-organized threats to its well-being. We also ask that the EPA’s offer made over a year ago, via the Caribbean office of Terry Rodriguez to coordinate a multi federal agency meeting to address concerns expressed to the agency in writing for last five years, be honored. This would be a measurable outcome that would be a step in the right direction and that would empower us as an EJ org to possibly help reduce your overall oversight burden in the future, by addressing with agencies these concerns


proactively. By safeguarding the constitutional right of meaningful public participation in these projects, this community can and has taken care of itself pro-actively. Right now, we need your help to restore this right. THANK YOU And thanks again for your diligent efforts to move this critical environmental justice initiative into a more meaningful and implementable realm! We look forward to easier access to the final product online and maintaining engagement in this planning process. We are grateful to see movement towards placing EJ efforts within the EPA beyond politics. We would be grateful for any permanent tools for enforcing EJ, as we have learned hard lessons from previous administrations who demonstrated the damage they can do to fragile EJ communities when this critical initiative is blatantly abandoned.


Mary Ann Lucking Director

c. Jane Lubchenco Judith Enck




From: Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov (Enck.Judith@epamail.epa.gov) To: coralations@yahoo.com; Date: Mon, October 4, 2010 4:58:21 PM Cc: Subject: Re: comments plan EJ 2014
very helpful. thanks! Judith Enck Regional Administrator U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 290 Broadway New York, N.Y. 10007-1866 (212) 637-5000

From: CORALations <coralations@yahoo.com> To: Charles Lee/DC/USEPA/US@EPA Cc: Judith Enck/R2/USEPA/US@EPA, Jane Lubchenco <jane.lubchenco@noaa.gov> Date: 10/04/2010 03:41 PM Subject: comments plan EJ 2014

Dear Mr. Lee: I left a call Friday to let you know we had no internet service and I hope these comments will be added into the record since I believe our local experience offers something to offer to administrators working on the EJ Plan. Thank you very much for what you are doing. Mary Ann Lucking Director CORALations P.O. Box 750 Culebra, PR 00775 www.coralations.org 1-877-77CORAL / 1-877-77(2-6725) (gratis / toll free) (o) 787-556-6234 email: maryann@coralations.org

[attachment "CORALations_EJcomments.pdf" deleted by Judith Enck/R2/USEPA/US]

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