EPA Chief Defends Administration on Environmental Justice

Gina McCarthy testifies before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works at her confirmation hearing to become the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
March 3, 2014, 6:26 a.m.

En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy on Monday de­fen­ded the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­cord on en­vir­on­ment­al justice, say­ing that new vehicle-emis­sion lim­its will raise the stand­ard of liv­ing for res­id­ents of heav­ily traf­ficked areas.

“Mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans still suf­fer from the health im­pacts of poor air qual­ity, es­pe­cially those in urb­an areas along high-traffic cor­ridors,” Mc­Carthy said dur­ing a press call to an­nounce the agency’s newly fi­nal­ized “Tier 3” stand­ards. The rule­mak­ing aims to cut back on the amount of sul­fur blen­ded with gas­ol­ine and set air-pol­lu­tion lim­its for tailpipe emis­sions from cars and trucks start­ing in 2017.

“By re­du­cing these pol­lut­ants we’re really ad­dress­ing an en­vir­on­ment­al-justice is­sue,” Mc­Carthy said. “Com­munit­ies that live near ma­jor road­ways of­ten live, work, and play right along that road­way, and they’re dis­pro­por­tion­ately harmed by air pol­lu­tion.”

Mc­Carthy’s men­tion of en­vir­on­ment­al justice ar­rives on the heels of com­ments from Demo­crats that the White House has not done enough to ad­dress the im­pact of cli­mate change on low-in­come and minor­ity com­munit­ies.

Reps. Keith El­lis­on, D-Minn., and Raul Gri­jalva, D-Ar­iz., penned a let­ter last week to the ad­min­is­tra­tion ask­ing for in­creased ac­tion on en­vir­on­ment­al justice un­der the head­ing of the pres­id­ent’s cli­mate ac­tion plan.

“Cli­mate change com­pounds ex­ist­ing in­equit­ies,” the Demo­crats write in the let­ter. “Droughts, floods, wild­fires, and ex­treme weath­er events in­crease the vul­ner­ab­il­ity of people liv­ing in areas with lim­ited cli­mate re­si­li­ency — com­munit­ies with poor air qual­ity, un­safe hous­ing, and in­suf­fi­cient re­sources to plan, pre­pare and re­cov­er from ex­treme weath­er.”

The let­ter has not yet been sent. Its au­thors are still col­lect­ing sig­na­tures. 

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