By Oliver Milman in New York, for the Guardian
NEWARK, NJ – Today, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was joined by local community leaders and advocates from across New Jersey and the nation in announcing a landmark bill that represents a major step toward eliminating environmental injustice. The Environmental Justice Act of 2017 requires federal agencies to address environmental justice through agency actions and permitting decisions, and strengthens legal protections against environmental injustice for communities of color, low-income communities, and indigenous communities.
Read more about the bill here.
MEJO and the East Madison Community Center held a community fish dinner on September 30 to close out the Center’s Hunger Action Month activities and kickoff MEJO’s new USEPA-funded Starkweather Creek environmental justice project. See photos of the event below.
Two hundred fish meals were served at the Saturday afternoon event, held at EMCC in northeast Madison. The theme was the shared tradition of fishing and eating fish, a nutritious, whole food that people around the world enjoy. Types of fish served included fried catfish, pan-fried bluegill (caught that day in Lake Monona!), Hmong tilapia salad, batter-fried tilapia, Lake Superior whitefish and wild rice, and Nigerian baked fish.
Other event supporters (fish, vegetables and equipment) included Willy Street Co-op North, Native Food Network/Mobile Farmers Market, East Madison Monona Rotary, Troy Farm, Kurt Welke and local community gardens.
The event also serves as a kickoff for MEJO’s new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant for its Starkweather Creek environmental justice project to engage residents and subsistence anglers on Madison’s northeast side in learning about stormwater pollution and to build their capacities to participate in community decisions about stormwater pollution prevention. Project partners include East Madison Community Center, Northside Planning Council and the UW-Madison Department of Geography (GIS Capstone program).
People might be surprised to learn that the Starkweather Creek drainage basin includes the Sherman Village, Whitetail Ridge, Berkley Oaks and Sherman (partial) neighborhoods, as well as the airport, MATC, Truax neighborhood, East Towne and a large part of the east and northeast sides. The full drainage basin can be seen here (URL).
More information about the project coming soon.
Photos of the Community Fish Dinner are below.
The Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO) joins more than 20 Superfund sites and 70 environmental organizations on the “People’s Task Force on the Future of Superfund,” which has outlined citizens’ recommendations on the EPA’s Superfund Program. See the People’s Task Force recommendations here.
The grassroots People’s Task Force, reflecting voices of communities dealing with pollution all over the U.S., is taking action after learning that the Trump Administration and newly-appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposed budget includes a 30% cut in funding to the Superfund. Also, last month Pruitt assembled a Task Force to provide Superfund recommendations that will decrease cleanup oversight, privilege corporate interests over public health, and weaken transparency and community involvement.
Photo: Fire at Foxconn factory in China.
“State officials and lawmakers are working on an incentive package to lure giant Taiwanese iPhone manufacturer Foxconn to Wisconsin,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported on July 21, 2017.
Foxconn would like to build a $7 billion plant in the U.S. to build display panels for Apple iPhones and iPads, and is considering several states for a factory. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told WSJ that lawmakers are talking about “huge, big numbers” to offer Foxconn to lure them to Wisconsin.
According to the WSJ article, Foxconn has explored several potential sites for a factory in southeastern and central Wisconsin, including in Dane County. Company officials have held a number of private meetings with politicians to negotiate options, but Fitzgerald said so far “all negotiations with the company are being conducted with the administration and have not significantly included legislators.” Governor Walker hosted Foxconn founder and chairman Terry Gou at his Maple Bluff mansion last week.
Oddly, recent local news stories about Wisconsin politicians’ proposed incentives to lure Foxconn here have not raised any questions about the company’s horrific environmental and worker safety record in China, where it has manufactured devices for Apple and other companies for years. A simple google search on the company quickly pulls up numerous articles about Foxconn factory explosions, worker accidents, deaths, and toxic environmental pollution.
In 2010, 18 Foxconn workers jumped to their deaths due to despair over working conditions in the factory. Here’s what happened after the Foxconn suicides. In 2011, an explosion killed three workers at a Foxconn plant.
Here’s a sampling of other articles about Foxconn’s appalling environmental and worker safety issues:
Some people will undoubtedly argue that Foxconn won’t get away with sickening its workers and spewing toxic pollution into waterways here in Wisconsin, as they do in China. These optimists should be reminded of Wisconsin DNR’s record of letting industrial polluters off the hook for significant regulatory violations (e.g., see here, here, and here). What will Walker’s industry-friendly DNR allow Foxconn to get away with in Wisconsin?
Politicians are excited by the promise of thousands of new jobs in the state, but hopefully everyone will not put their heads in the sand about Foxconn’s record. Before they welcome Foxconn here with huge incentives, legislators and citizens better wake up and start asking questions about the company’s worker safety and environmental record and how responsibly the company would operate here—and about how diligent Wisconsin’s DNR and state OSHA offices will be in enforcing our already inadequate worker safety and environmental regulations. Jobs that make workers sick (or kill them)—and pollute their air, drinking water, local waterways and fish—are not good jobs, even if Wisconsin politicians promote them as such.
Below, workers at a Foxconn factory in China.
Photo: Man fishing for food on Lake Monona, Madison, Wisconsin
An article in MinnPost by David Konisky of Indiana University outlines how Trump administration policies and agency appointments could affect environmental justice in the U.S., reversing years of progress under President Obama’s EPA.
Read more here.
Mustafa Ali, former head of EPA’s environmental justice program (photo from Wilson Center, Environmental Change and Security program/flickr)
By Phil McKenna, Inside Climate News
The head of the environmental justice program at the Environmental Protection Agency has stepped down, departing the government with a lengthy letter to Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s new administrator, urging him not to kill the agency’s programs.
Mustafa Ali, a senior adviser and assistant associate administrator at the agency, worked to alleviate the impact of air, water and industrial pollution on poverty-stricken towns and neighborhoods during nearly a quarter century with the EPA. He helped found the environmental justice office, then the environmental equity office, in 1992, during the presidency of President George H.W. Bush.
Ali leaves the EPA as Pruitt, who took office Feb. 17, prepares to implement deep cuts in the agency’s budget and staff. A Trump administration proposal would cut the EPA’s $8 billion budget by $2 billion and reduce its roster of 15,000 employees by 20 percent. An internal memo obtained by multiple news outlets on March 1 called for a complete dismantling of the office of environmental justice and elimination of a number of grant programs that address low-income and minority communities. A story in the Oregonian reported that funding for the office would decrease 78 percent, from $6.7 million to $1.5 million.
Read more here…
The Midwest Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO) has received a grant from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, the grassroots organization founded in 1981 by Lois Gibbs after her historic and successful efforts to fight toxic pollution at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York.
“The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice is honored to be able to provide this grant to the Midwest Environment Justice Organization,” Gibbs said after the funding was awarded. “The program was very competitive, and their proposal reached the top because of the incredible work the group is doing. Grassroots groups across the country are underfunded given the level of impact they have on their communities and larger social change policies. CHEJ is privileged to be able to provide resources to all of these powerful groups, thanks to a small number of generous donors.”
MEJO works to educate community members about the effects of toxic pollution and to engage them in actions to stop it. “Unfortunately, even in a relatively privileged and progressive city such as Madison, many people from a variety of backgrounds are exposed to toxic pollution—and lower income people and minorities are more likely to be exposed than more privileged people,” MEJO President Maria Powell added.
“The CHEJ project,” Powell said, “will focus on outreach to people affected by industrial pollution to engage them in decisions on what to do about it—especially how to prevent toxic chemical exposures among the most vulnerable people. This is the core of environmental justice work.”
Since its founding in 2006, MEJO has worked to address environmental justice issues such as the race and class-based disparities in the consumption of contaminated fish, over-use of toxic pesticides on public land, and air and water pollution from urban brownfields and industries.
Photo: The view from the site where the City of Madison has approved a low income housing development, with substantial city funding.
Click here for a brief taste of what people at this housing will see and hear from their apartments.
Waste trucks visit the Madison-Kipp Fair Oaks factory almost daily to suck up thousands of gallons of toxic wastes from aluminum melting and die casting processes and haul them away. Many of the same toxic chemicals, their combusted byproducts, metals and small particulates are emitted—unfiltered—from the factory stacks and open bay doors.
Would you want to see this out your living room window every day? To hear this noise every day? To smell and breathe the air emitted from these stacks, vents and trucks every day? Would you want your children to breathe this air?
We doubt that many Madison alders, public health officials, and other city decision makers could honestly answer YES to these questions. So why do they think it’s OK for low income and homeless Madisonians to live there?
The Madison Common Council has already approved $1.3 million in city funding for this housing project. On Tuesday, Feb. 28, alders will vote on whether to further support the project with $343,000 of Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) funds. See our comments–along with many Kipp neighborhood residents as co-signers–to the Madison Common Council here.
Please email Madison alders (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mayor Paul Soglin (PSoglin@cityofmadison.com) and ask them not to approve TIF funding for this project. Ask them where they live. Ask them to consider, honestly, if they would live in these apartments. As them to consider whether they assume different quality of life standards for less privileged people than for themselves.
Everyone deserves a safe and healthy home.
Richard Denison, Ph.D., Environmental Defense Fund
There is an extreme anti-regulatory and anti-science bandwagon moving fast through Washington, and much of the chemical industry seems to have jumped right on board. We’re also seeing growing signs of industry pushback against even modest early actions EPA is taking to implement the Lautenberg Act, which reformed the obsolete Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and passed with strong bipartisan support only last June.
Read more here…