I Wrote About This Environmental Injustice Decades Ago. It Hasn’t ChangedRoundup
tags: pollution, Texas, Natural Gas, Petroleum, Environmental Justice, Environmental racism
Robert Bullard is a professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University, where he focuses on issues of environmental justice.
A majority of people who live in the Texas coastal communities of Brownsville, Corpus Christi and Port Arthur are brown and Black. These communities are also locations for proposed terminals to load liquefied natural gas on tankers bound for overseas markets.
This correlation is not unusual. Discrimination in housing forced Black and brown people into areas near polluting industries that threatened their health and safety and continue to do so.
I documented this pattern in my book “Dumping in Dixie” more than three decades ago, finding that “toxic-waste dumps, municipal landfills, garbage incinerators and similar noxious facilities” tended to be in minority neighborhoods with little access to the levers of government power.
The consequences have been devastating. A study published in April in the journal Science Advances, for instance, found that “racial-ethnic minorities in the United States are exposed to disproportionately high levels of ambient fine particulate air pollution, the largest environmental cause of human mortality.” The researchers found that “because of a legacy of racist housing policy and other factors, racial-ethnic exposure disparities have persisted even as overall exposure has decreased.”
Now President Biden has the opportunity to change that dynamic. A vacancy looms on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulates the siting and construction of interstate natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas plants and export facilities. The term of one of the commission’s members, a Trump appointee, expires this month, though he could remain until a replacement is confirmed by the Senate. A Biden appointment would shift the balance of power on this obscure but powerful board to three Democrats and two Republicans.
To date, the commission has never rejected a project on environmental justice grounds. Mr. Biden promised to make environmental justice a cornerstone of his climate change agenda and repair the inequities that have left minority communities bearing the impacts of fossil fuel production. His Justice40 initiative sets a goal of delivering 40 percent of the overall benefits of government climate investments to disadvantaged communities.
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