Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rand Paul & Environmental Justice


By Norris McDonald

Rand Paul has the right idea about revitalizing urban inner city neighborhoods, but his implementation plan needs some tweaking.  His dismissal of environmental laws in the service of reducing burdensome government red tape in redeveloping sites in urban areas is admirable, but unworkable in the face of environmental justice opposition.

Senator Paul's Economic Freedom Zone (EFZ) [S. 1852] concept of repealing the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act protections walks directly into opposition from the environmental justice communities and environmental justice activists. Because these environmental justice communities are disproportionately affected by pollution from so many sources, giving a pass to companies wanting to locate in these areas will be met with black environmentalist opposition. So although Senator Paul's desire is in the right place, his mechanism for getting there will put him in direct opposition to the environmental justice community and by association, the environmental community.  

We want industry to reinvest in black communities.  But we do not want polluting industries relocating in areas that already face a disproportionate amount of pollution from industrial pollution sites.

So how do we reconcile Senator Paul's aspirations for improvements in the black community with his economic/environmental vision?  We think Senator could balance his legislative proposal by sponsoring the Environmental Justice Act of 2015, which would have the protections that are needed from an environmental justice perspective in relation to the Economic Freed Zone bill.  Any relaxation of Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act protections would be more than offset by the Environmental Justice Act.  Senator Paul can have it both ways.  And his sponsorship of the Environmental Justice Act of 2015 would show that he is serious about addressing environmental injustice within the context of redevelopments in black communities.

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