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Toxic threats to people of color: Environmental justice leaders meet in Denver Feb. 11-12

February 11, 2014

 

Denver – Juan Parras, executive director of the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAC) in Houston, Texas, is on the front line of a chemical disaster wiping out the entire Manchester community in Houston. Hundreds of chemical storage facilities in Houston are located in low-income communities and communities of color.

Manchester com'y Houston surrounded by refineries 'We demand to know what you are forcing us to breathe', web
In the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, completely surrounded and heavily polluted by Valero, Texas Recycling, a car crushing facility, the Port of Houston, Highway 610, a rail yard and a waste water treatment plant, people are fighting back – not only against the local toxic threats but against an additional, looming industrial pollution threat, the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama is deciding soon whether to approve a pipeline that would carry tarsands “oil” from Canada to Houston, where it would be refined in their neighborhood.

Parras explains: “Today is the 20th anniversary of Executive Order 12898 to address Environmental Justice in ‘Minority’ and Low Income Populations, issued by President Clinton. We came to Denver to celebrate our successes but, more importantly, we came because the work is far from done.”

Mr. Parras and others are attending the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) meeting in Denver this week, which is being held at USEPA, Region 8 Conference Center, 1595 Wynkoop St., Denver, CO 80202.

Maya Nye, coordinator of People Concerned About Chemical Safety in Kanawha County, West Virginia, site of the recent chemical spill that has left many without drinking water, will be attending the NEJAC event. Ms. Nye says, “10,000 gallons of a toxic chemical mix used for coal processing spilled into the river, contaminating the public water source that serves 300,000 residents in nine counties.” She went on to say, “This chemical disaster was 100 percent preventable.”

“This chemical disaster was 100 percent preventable.”

Michele Roberts, co-coordinator of the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance relates, “The number of people sick or dying due to exposure from toxic chemicals in communities like Mossville, Louisiana, is outrageous. Generations of families are losing and have lost their lives in communities along ‘Cancer Alley.’ We need non-voluntary regulations from the DHS, DOL and EPA to protect the valuable lives of those who live near and work in these dangerous facilities. The government must take responsibility for these ticking time-bombs.”

“We need non-voluntary regulations from the DHS, DOL and EPA to protect the valuable lives of those who live near and work in these dangerous facilities. The government must take responsibility for these ticking time-bombs.”

“We founded the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) in 1994,” says Richard Moore, executive director of Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, N.M., and the first elected chair of the NEJAC. “We had hoped laws would have been implemented and enforced to prevent people and workers from becoming sick and dying by forcing the chemical companies to be accountable for the harm they cause. Instead, we are seeing one or two chemical incidents a week. We need the EPA administrator to support real regulations that protect communities and workers near these facilities.”

“We need the EPA administrator to support real regulations that protect communities and workers near these facilities.”

Mr. Moore and Ms. Roberts will be joining members of the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance from California, New Mexico, Texas and West Virginia along with environmental justice leaders from throughout the country in Denver this week to evaluate the issues that are preventing people in communities of color from being protected from harm, and to make recommendations to the U.S. EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

Learn more at www.louisvillecharter.org.

 

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