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December 2003

Federal Agencies Forced to Provide 'Environmental Justice'

Washington— The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at its October 2003 meeting approved its report entitled “Not in My Backyard: Executive Order 12,898 and Title VI as Tools for Achieving Environmental Justice.” The report finds that the EPA, HUD, DOT, and DOI have failed to fully implement the Executive Order signed in 1994 by President Clinton mandating that federal agencies incorporate environmental justice into their work and programs.

The report follows hearings on environmental justice held by the Commission in January and February 2002. Experts presented evidence of environmental inequities in communities of color, including disproportionate incidences of environmentally related disease, lead paint in homes, hazardous waste sites, toxic playgrounds, and schools located near Superfund sites and facilities that release toxic chemicals.

The report will be distributed to members of Congress and President Bush. “We hope that the evidence presented in the report leads Congress to clarify and strengthen legislation protecting the rights of all communities to participate in environmental decision-making,” stated Commission Chairperson Mary Frances Berry. “Environmental justice must become a core component of the mission of each federal agency, and means for evaluating existing programs must be developed,” Berry added.

The full text of the report is available online at

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