26 Feb 2002 Center for Environmental Justice Press Release: From the “New Segregation” to Higher Costs: Environmental Policies Cost Minorities the Most
From the “New Segregation” threatened by anti-sprawl advocatesto the disproportionate burden carried by lower income Americans to comply with clean air regulations to the potential loss of nearly 900,000 held by African-Americans should restrictive anti-global warming policies be adopted, African-Americans an other minorities have a keen interest in promoting and monitoring true environmental justice.
African-American environmental achievements are celebrated and concerns are being aired by Project 21’s Center for Environmental Justice as part of the African-American leadership network’s observance of Black History Month. “Solidarity and Stewardship: African-Americans and the Environment” can be found on Project 21’s Internet web site at http://www.nationalcenter.org/CEJEAA.html.
“The history of African-Americans and the environment has been one of environmental stewardship rather than activism, and that often puts blacks at a more advanced level than other environmental activists,” said Project 21 director David Almasi. “The black experience has been more one of survival than armchair advocacy. It was one born of toiling in the fields instead of reaping the benefits produced by the hard work of others.”
“Solidarity and Stewardship” features a history of the African-American environmentalism and profiles of current and past black environmental heroes such as George Washington Carver. The web site contains a large selection of policy papers and press releases that show how the government’s environmental regulations often work against black progress. It also makes suggestions on how the regulatory process can be more equitable for the poor and people of color.
Even though African-Americans are not well-represented in the leadership of establishment environmental organizations, government policies regulating environmental quality arguably have more impact on minorities than any other segment of the population. For instance:
- Environmental regulations cost American households an average of $3,000 per year. Because of income differences, black households end up spending 12 percent of their incomes to comply with these regulations as opposed to only 7.1 percent for their white counterparts.
- Regulations necessary to comply with the United Nations’ Kyoto global warming treaty, ardently sought by mainstream environmentalists, could raise energy costs by an estimated $1,740 per household. A study also found global warming regulations could put an estimated 864,000 African-Americans out of work.
- A survey of “environmental justice” organizations conducted by Project 21 and the John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs in November of 2000 found that 63 percent of those surveyed agreed that environmental laws are unevenly applied and minorities are disproportionately hurt. 91% of respondents ranked priorities like economic advancement, health care and educational opportunity above improving environmental quality.
“The average environmentalist is likely to be white and financially secure. This allows them to be unrealistic when advocating environmental laws,” said Almasi. “Black Americans have been more rooted in weighing desires and needs. This creates more sound environmental policies.”
In addition to the “Solidarity and Stewardship” program, Project 21 and the John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs are currently working on a comprehensive econometrics analysis of the negative effects that “smart growth” urban planning policies have on minority homeownership effects that may be leading to a de facto “New Segregation” between minority and white Americans. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, however, has withdrawn previously public information critical to the release of the report, delaying its completion. A Freedom of Information Act request has been made to the USDA.
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information on Project 21, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 [email protected], or visit Project 21’s Internet web site at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html. For more information about the Center for Environmental Justice, please visit http://www.nationalcenter.org/CEJ.html.