Environmental

inJustice

The North Carolina Black Alliance is committed to advocating for environmental justice, ensuring that water and air quality in Black communities is not contaminated, and eliminating inequalities in the location of environmentally hazardous facilities and enterprises. We seek to aid Black communities as they prepare for and address the disproportionate effects of climate change and will work to prevent contributing to this phenomenon in the future. We are also committed to furthering energy justice and advocating for equitable access to energy-efficient housing, transportation, and clean energy infrastructure.

Environmental Justice Historical Timeline

1968-1979

February 1968 – Memphis Sanitation Strike

  • In response to the deaths of two sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, Black sanitation workers began a strike to demand safer working conditions and fair compensation.

December 1979 – Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management

  • This lawsuit was the first to challenge the placement of waste management facilities under the Civil Rights Act, claiming that these facilities were disproportionately placed within black neighborhoods in Houston.

1980-1989

September 1982 – Warren County, Sit-in (Birth of Environmental Justice Movement)

  • Black community members in Warren County, North Carolina protested the plans to put a hazardous waste landfill, one that would receive PCB-contaminated soil, in their neighborhood. While these protests were well attended and reported, the landfill was still placed in Afton. However, this event was a landmark in tying racial equity to environmental justice.
  • The Environmental Justice movement was birthed in North Carolina by local leaders as the Mother of the Environmental Justice Movement Dollie Burwell, Dr. Ben Chavis and Many others.

April 1983 – Robert Bullard conducts first of its kind study on waste management in Houston

  • The first of its kind study documented by Dr. Robert Bullard revealed city-owned garbage dumps were dropped in black neighborhoods.

June 1983 – United States General Accounting Office (GAO) conducts study on hazardous waste landfill

  • As a result of the 1982 Warren County sit-in believed to have sparked the EJ movement by providing solid evidence that supported claims of environmental racism, the GAO went on to find that three out of four waste landfills were placed in predominately African-American communities.

1987 – United Church of Christ (UCC) conducts first of its kind study to address the issues of race, class, and the environment on a national level 

  • The study went on to find that millions of African Americans, Native Americans, Asians and Hispanics, were located in communities that housed at least one toxic waste site

March 1988 – West Harlem Environmental Action

  • Created under the synonym “WeAct” with the goal of focusing on the mismanagement of the North River Sewage Treatment Plant, and its effects on surrounding Harlem communities. WeAct eventually transformed into an organization that was used to empower the community.

1990-1999

1990 – Indigenous Environmental Network

  • Used to bolster indigenous communities through various means such as: improving crops, increasing natural resources, and establishing good air quality, all as a means to increasing the health and prosperity of their people.

1990 – the University of Michigan Conference on Race and Environmental Hazards

  • Organized by Dr. Paul Mohai, and Dr. Bunyan Bryant this conference would go on to play an important role in establishing environmental justice as a legitimate academic discipline. 

April 1990 – Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice

  • “SNEEJ” for short, is a regional organization composed of various minority groups that aimed to establish and strengthen workers in hopes of increasing their national, international, state and regional EJ policies.

April 1990 – Congressional Black Caucus Meets with EPA Officials

  • A meeting between EPA officials and the Black Caucus to report their findings on the environmental risk being higher for minorities, and that the EPA was not appropriately addressing the community needs.

July 1990 – EPA Administrator Creates the Environmental Equity Workgroup 

  • Workgroup created to review evidence that racial communities and low-income communities have an unequal environmental risk burden

October 1990 – Dumping in Dixie: Race Class and Environmental Quality, the nation’s first environmental justice book

  • A book written by Dr. Robert Bullard focused on documenting environmental injustice. This book was the first of its kind to draw connections between environmental injustice and racial discrimination. 

October 1991 – First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit

  • Progressed the EJ movement past the early focus on toxins, to include issues of public health, land use, housing, community empowerment and many other things. The summit also displayed the possibility to build a grassroots movement around environmental and economic justice.

1992 – Deep South Center for Environmental Justice founded at Xavier University of Louisiana, the nation’s first EJ center.

  • In conjunction with community environmental groups and colleges across the southern area, Dr. Beverly Wright established the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. The center was the first EJ center to be linked with a historically black college. It has since grown into a significant resource for environmental justice, education, and training since its inception. 

1992 – University of Michigan’s Environmental Justice Program

  • The first environmental justice program for undergraduate and graduate students was established at the University of Michigan by Bunyan Bryant and Paul Mohai.

 June 1992 – Reducing Risk for All Communities 

  • Multiple new proposals for reducing environmental inequalities were included in this study.

November 1992 – Office of Environmental Equity is Established

  • Established on recommendations from the Environmental Equity Workgroup,  The name of the organization was changed to the Office of Environmental Justice in 1994.  

November 1992 – Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards, the second EJ book published

  • Following Dumping in Dixie, Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards is largely considered the nation’s second book on Environmental Justice. Bunyan Bryant and Paul Mohai, editors of a collection of 16 essays, investigated the disproportionate effects of environmental risks on people of color (POC)  and offered new ways to promote environmental justice.

September 1993 – EPA Administrator Creates the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council

  • A government advisory group that organizes public hearings around the country on environmental justice problems, founded by  Carol M. Browner.

1994 – Environmental Justice Small Grant Program

  • Founded to assist qualifying groups in forming collaborative relationships, discovering local environmental or public health challenges, and envisioning solutions while also empowering the community via education, training, and outreach.

1994 –  Environmental Justice Resource Center founded at Clark Atlanta University 

  • Dr. Robert Bullard, the Center’s Director, founded the Environmental Justice Resource Center (EJRC) at Clark Atlanta University (an HBCU),  to serve as an aggregator for research, policy, and information on environmental justice, race and the environment, civil rights, facility siting, land-use planning, transportation equity, suburban sprawl, and smart growth. The Center’s mission is to support, and educate people of color, students, professionals, and grassroots community leaders so that they may participate in environmental decision-making more fully.

 February 11, 1994 – Bill Clinton Signs Executive Order 12898

  • President Clinton issues a proclamation. Its mission is to draw federal attention to the environmental and human health consequences of federal activities on minority and low-income groups in order to achieve environmental protection for all communities. 

May 1995 – First National Interagency Environmental Public Meeting

  • Attended by 11 Federal Agencies with a goal of focusing on various sessions like Dialogue, a public forum where members of the public can voice their views on certain issues.

    An Interagency Public Meeting on Environmental Justice (EJ) was conducted for the first time. The Outreach Task Force of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) organized a Steering Committee in 1994 to assist the EJ IWG in planning, organizing, and preparing for this conference. Several hundred people attended the gathering, which was hosted by Clark Atlanta University. 

December 1997 – EPA and CEQ Collaborate on NEPA to Advance Environmental Justice

  • Developed to assist federal agencies with their NEPA procedures in order to effectively identify and resolve environmental justice problems. The compliance of the federal government with the National Environmental Policy Act and Executive Order 12898 is overseen by CEQ.

December 1999 – National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBEJN) launched in New Orleans

  • In New Orleans, Louisiana, 300 Black activists created the National Black Environmental Justice Network (NBJEN) to develop ways to address environmental and health inequities in Black neighborhoods.

2000-2010

December 2000 – EPA Issues Memorandum on Permitting 

  • EPA General Counsel released EPA Statutory and Regulatory Authorities Under Which Environmental Justice Issues May Be Addressed in Permitting during the Clinton Administration. This decision examined a variety of statutory and regulatory authorities that can be used to address environmental justice issues during permitting. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act, and the Clean Air Act were among those enacted.

2001 – Warren County (NC) PCB Landfill is Remediated

  • The Warren County, North Carolina PCB landfill community obtained state and federal funds to remediate the PCB landfill and construct a community-driven economic development strategy.

August 2001 – EPA Administrator Releases Memorandum in Support

  • Christine Todd Whitman, Administrator of the EPA issued the following statement in support of environmental justice:“Environmental justice is the goal to be achieved for all communities and persons across this Nation. Environmental justice is achieved when everyone, regardless of race, culture, or income, enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”

 October 2001 – Office of Environmental Justice Prepares Treatise

  • Opportunities for Advancing Environmental Justice: An Analysis of US EPA Statutory Authorities was commissioned by the Office of Environmental Justice and written by the Environmental Law Institute. It looked at the provisions of the major federal environmental statutes that EPA administers in order to find authority that may be used to further a variety of environmental justice goals in the Agency’s operations.

2002 –  EPA Offices Begin Implementing EJ Action Plans

  • Under the guidance of the EPA Environmental Justice Executive Steering Committee, EPA began drafting Environmental Justice Action Plans in the fiscal year 2003. Environmental Justice Action Plans are forward-looking planning papers that include concrete commitments from each Headquarters Program Office and Region to address critical environmental justice issues.

October 2002 – Second People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit

  • In Washington, D.C., the Second People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit was held.

March 2003 – Interagency Working Group Revitalization Projects

  • The EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice had selected fifteen IWG Revitalization Projects for funding. In the areas of environmental justice and community regeneration, these projects highlighted collaborative interagency and stakeholder partnerships. Several more federal agencies collaborated with state and local governments, tribal governments, community-based groups,  and non-governmental organizations to form the partnerships.

May 2003  – Framework for Cumulative Risk Assessment

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a Framework for Cumulative Risk Assessment. The report’s main goal is to provide EPA with a simple, adaptable framework for conducting and evaluating cumulative risk assessments.

June  2004 – Collaborative Problem-Solving Model and Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Grant Program

  • The Collaborative Problem-Solving Framework was designed by the Office of Environmental Justice, and the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program was created (EJCPS). These were derived from Interagency Working Group projects’ methods.

November 2004 – EPA Issues Toolkit to Assist Staff in Conducting Environmental Justice Assessments

  • The Office of Environmental Justice created the ‘Toolkit for Assessing Potential Allegations of Environmental Injustice’ in collaboration with the EPA Regions and Headquarters Program Offices. This Toolkit provides a strategy for analyzing and reacting to possible environmental injustice charges as they arise, or for preventing injustices from developing in the first place. Environmental Justice Coordinators at EPA Headquarters and Regional Offices who are actively involved in environmental justice projects are the Toolkit’s primary audience.

December 2004  – NEJAC Submits Key EJ Recommendations to EPA Administrator

  • The National Environmental Advisory Council presented the EPA Administrator with the report Trying to ensure Reduced Risk in Communities with Multiple Stressors: Environmental Justice and Cumulative Risks/Impacts.

2005  – Community Action for a Renewed Environment Program

  • With the purpose of giving grants to a diverse group of applicants, including nonprofit groups, institutions, and municipal governments Through the “CARE” act, the EPA funded two tiers to attain these aims.
  • The Level I agreement included funding to assist towns in informing local collaborative partnerships. These collaborations aided communities in identifying and prioritizing neighborhood issues.
  • Level II gave funding to assist in the formation of broad-based partnerships. These collaborations aided in the implementation of risk reduction strategies in communities with identified environmental concerns.

August 2006 – NEJAC Issues Report Highlighting Gentrification and Displacement

  • The National Environmental Advisory Council published the report Unintended Consequences of Redevelopment and Revitalization Efforts in Five Environmental Justice Communities. The concerns about gentrification and displacement in brownfield villages are highlighted in this research.

2007 – Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty

  • PDF written by Dr. Robert Bullard, Paul Mohai, Beverly Wright, and Robin Saha. The study states, through various references to reports from the past, people of color are more concentrated near toxic waste plants than previously demonstrated in the United Church of Christ 1987 survey.

2009 – EJ Showcase Communities

  • Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced a national project to address environmental justice issues in ten areas. These ten villages were dubbed “EJ Showcase Communities.” The EPA allocated $100,000 for each project to address concerns about individuals who were disproportionately exposed to environmental risks. Participants were chosen for their collaborative, community-based methods to improve public health and the environment. These demonstration programs examined and exchanged information on various approaches to improving the EPA’s ability to accomplish environmental outcomes in communities.

2009 – Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities

  • Three organizations worked together to coordinate government spending in order to achieve community goals for developing healthier neighborhoods.The six principles of this federal partnership were to: increase transportation options, improve economic competitiveness;; promote equitable affordable housing;  coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment, support existing communities; and value communities and neighborhoods.

2010 – Environmental Justice is Established as an Agency-Wide Priority

  • Lisa P. Jackson establishes environmental justice as an Agency-wide objective.

March 17, 2010 – Symposium on the Science of Disproportionate Environmental Health Impacts 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted a science conference. The conference looked at reasons that explain why some populations, particularly minorities, low-income people, and tribal people, are subjected to higher levels of pollution, which has a negative impact on their health. This discussion benefited future discussions about how to address these impacts in governmental decision-making.

July 2010 – EPA Issues Interim Rulemaking Process Guidance

  • Interim Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action was provided by the EPA. This guide is used by EPA staff to examine whether certain acts create potential environmental justice concerns and to encourage public engagement in rulemaking.

December 2010 – White House Forum on Environmental Justice

  • The first White House Forum on Environmental Justice brought together Cabinet secretaries and senior officials from a variety of government agencies and offices, including.Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Lisa P. Jackson, Eric Holder, Ken Salazar, Hilda Solis, Kathleen Sebelius, and Janet Napolitano, The Obama Administration’s dedication to ensuring that all Americans are protected from environmental and health threats was demonstrated at this meeting. The day-long seminar was attended by over 100 environmental justice leaders from throughout the country.

2011-2016

August 4, 2011 – Interagency Working Group Memorandum of Understanding 

  • The Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898 were signed by the Administrator of the United States General Services Administration (GSA). Details include:
    • Declare the importance of identifying and addressing environmental justice considerations in agency programs, policies, and activities;
    • Develop an environmental justice strategy and annual implementation progress reports;
    • Ensure that meaningful opportunities for the public to submit comments and recommendations relating to the strategy, implementation, and ongoing efforts related to environmental justice exist; and Serve as an active member of the Interagency Work Group on Environmental Justice.

September 2011 – Plan EJ 2014

  • The EJ 2014 plan was released. The goal of this publication was to promote Administrator Jackson’s goal of advancing environmental justice. Plan EJ 2014 is a roadmap to help the EPA integrate environmental justice into all of its programs, policies, and actions. It is neither a law nor regulation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pledged to replicate and expand the usage of good practices from its multi-media community-based programs. The Agency intended to eliminate environmental dangers and promote healthy, sustainable, and livable communities, particularly among the overburdened.

December 2011 – Environmental Justice Legal Tools

  • EJ Legal Tools was created by the EPA’s Office of General Counsel. This document gives an overview of a number of discretionary legislative authorities that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may consider employing to guarantee that its programs, policies, and actions effectively protect human health and the environment in minority and low-income communities. EJ Legal Tools is not a manual that tells the Agency when and how to conduct specific measures. The EPA’s reinvigorated commitment to environmental justice, as expressed in Plan EJ 2014, spawned this document.

2012 – Federal Agency Environmental Justice Strategies

  • Environmental Justice strategies were released from every federal department. These initiatives are part of the IWG Charter’s commitment to the Agency. The National Environmental Policy Act, Climate Change, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Goods Movement were designated as key concerns by the Federal Interagency Working Group (IWG).

March 2012 – EPA Launches the Environmental Justice in Action Blog

  • The Environmental Justice in Action Blog was started by the EPA in 2012. It was started in order to better document the personal perspectives of those working to address environmental justice concerns around the country. Featuring over 200 entries by authors both inside and outside the federal government since its debut, including hosting a series on climate change and young involvement in environmental and climate justice movements. It also included stories highlighting the connection between environmental justice and other EPA programs

May 9, 2013 –  EJ Considerations in Permits

  • EPA published a notice that includes: Actions that EPA Regional Offices Are Taking to Promote Meaningful Engagement in the Permitting Process by Overburdened Communities and Promising Practices for Permit Applicants Seeking EPA-Issued Permits: Ways to Engage Neighboring Communities as part of its ongoing efforts under Plan EJ 2014.

February 2014 – Introduction to Environmental Justice Online training course

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made its EJ 101, Introduction to Environmental Justice Online training course obligatory for all federal employees and management in 2014. This was the first time in the EPA’s 40-year history that Environmental Justice training was made obligatory. Within the first year of its publication, the web-based training course had trained over 17,000 EPA personnel, providing a basic yet instructive overview of environmental justice.

June 9, 2014 – Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Environmental Justice Policy

  • The EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples was developed in collaboration with the American Indian Environmental Office by the Office of Environmental Justice. The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, as well as different tribes, indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders, provided input and suggestions. The 17 policy concepts in this paper define how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collaborates with federally recognized tribes and indigenous peoples across the United States, as well as individuals living on Indian land, to preserve public health and the environment. It also explains how the Environmental Protection Agency works to solve environmental justice issues in Indian country and across the United States. The Policy contains resource tools, implementation accountability, and acknowledgment of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

May 2015 –  EPA Administrator and CEQ Lead EJ IWG Principal’s Meeting

  • The Senior Leadership of the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group (EJ IWG) convened at the White House Executive Building to kick off a transformative strategy to make a visible difference in communities. The federal family, (led by the EPA), created a unified and comprehensive government approach to improve community health and sustainability.

May 2015 –  Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice during the Development of an Action

  • The Environmental Justice Guidance for Regulatory Action Development was produced. This paper was created to ensure that efforts to consider environmental justice and make a visible difference in America’s communities are understood and coordinated across EPA’s programs and regions. The final guidance replaced the Agency’s Interim Guidance on Environmental Justice During Action Development, which was published in July 2010.

June 2015 – Initial Version of EJSCREEN is Released

  • EJSCREEN was made available to the general audience. EJSCREEN was first created in 2012 to offer the EPA a national methodology and datasets for considering environmental justice. EJSCREEN is a screening and mapping tool that is accessible via the internet. The Environmental Protection Agency has utilized it to inform outreach and stakeholder engagement, improve place-based work, and implement various parts of a range of agency projects.

March 2016  – NEPA Promising Practices Report

  • The Promising Practices for EJ Methodologies in NEPA Reviews were created by the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group (EJ IWG). This publication is a compilation of techniques and methodology obtained from more than 200 federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) EPA practitioners’ four-year evaluation of agency procedures. The report is divided into nine sections, each of which contains guiding concepts and particular measures to take during the NEPA process.

May 2016 – Final Draft of EJ 2020 is Introduced

  • The draft framework and final draft of EJ 2020 were both submitted for public comment by the EPA, and thousands of comments were received from stakeholders and communities working on environmental justice. To outline the strategy and answer stakeholder questions, agency personnel hosted over a hundred meetings across the country and four national webinars.

June 2016 – EJ Technical Guidance Report

  • The Environmental Justice Technical Guidance for Regulatory Analysis (EJ Technical Guidance) was published. This document was created to assist EPA analysts in evaluating potential EJ problems linked with EPA regulatory activities. While the Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of Regulatory Actions, released in May 2015, outlines when EJ should be considered during rulemaking, the EJ Technical Guidance outlines how to do so analytically. Prior to rulemaking, analysts are directed to analyze whether EJ issues exist and whether such concerns are worsened or reduced by each regulatory option under consideration.

August 2016 – EJ IWG Access & Awareness Series is Launched

  • The Access & Awareness Webinar Series was launched by the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group (EJ IWG). The monthly Access & Awareness Webinar Series was designed to give the general public access to the working group. It was also created to raise community knowledge of federal agency environmental justice policies and comprehensive community-based solutions to environmental justice concerns. The goal of this series was to assist the public to understand how federal agencies collaborate and what tools are available to anybody interested in improving the health, quality of life, and economic possibilities in overloaded communities.

August 2016  – Final Framework for EJ 2020 Action Agenda

  • It was decided to construct the EJ 2020 Action Agenda (EJ 2020). EJ 2020 is a 2016-2020 strategic plan for improving environmental justice that builds on the work of Plan EJ 2014.Integrate environmental justice into EPA initiatives to promote the health and environment of overburdened communities; Collaborate with partners to expand our positive influence in overburdened communities; Demonstrate progress on important national environmental justice concerns.

Environmental Justice: What You Need To Know?

Water pollution

Water Pollution

Water pollution reduces the water’s ability to be drinkable and habitable for critical ecosystems that rely on the contaminated water source.

Energy and Climate Justice

Energy + Climate Justice

Energy Justice acknowledges energy inequities  and works to create an equitable energy system. Climate Justice works to prevent further contributions to climate change.

Agriculture

Agriculture + Land Use

When we talk about agriculture in terms of environmental justice, it is often about the need for sustainable farming practices and healthy working environments for agricultural workers.

Environmental Policy Change

Enviromental Governance + Policy

Environmental policy is critical to correcting environmental injustices and setting standards to prevent continued environmental racism.

NCBA Environmental Justice Team

Kristen Pearson

Kristen Pearson

Environmental Justice Associate

 Kristen Pearson is a native of Western North Carolina. She has organized in her community for many years. As a vegan, holistic chef, and a trained Environmental Justice Organizer, she is committed to a clean and healthy environment for communities across the state.

Robert Whittington, Jr.

Robert Whittington, Jr.

Research, Technical and Education Materials Development Fellow

Robert Whittington, Jr. is an Afro-Indigenous native of the NC Blue Ridge Mountains. Through his work, Robert has coordinated statewide disaster relief rescue drops in over 20 Eastern NC counties and worked with BIPOC Environmental Justice and government organizations to provide written policy directives to the NC Office of Recovery & Resiliency. 

Trey Messer

Trey Messer

Water Infrastructure Focus Fellow

William “Trey” Messer, is the Founder and CEO of Messer Performance Academy. Through his work, he has seen the visible disparate health impacts on the lives of long-term athletes and the impact of unhealthy environments that create barriers for young Black athletes in their neighborhoods. 

Our Work in Environmental Justice

North Carolina Black Alliance (NCBA)
P.O. Box 27886 | Raleigh, NC 27611
info@ncblackalliance.org | 919-891-9788

© 2022 North Carolina Black Alliance. All Rights Reserved.
EnglishFrenchSpanish