WASHINGTON - Congressman Alcee L. Hastings applauded the first-ever White House Forum on Environmental Justice. The forum will be held on December 15, 2010, and participants include White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
“For too long, at-risk minority and low-income communities have been forced to endure more than their share of our country’s environmental impact,” said Hastings. “I’ve been fighting for this issue for years and am pleased that the White House is offering its support to protect minority and low-income communities from continued environmental injustices.”
More than 70 percent of African Americans and Latinos, compared to only 58 percent of non-minority populations, live in counties that regularly fail to meet current clean air standards. In these areas, a disproportionate number of citizens are suffering from cancer, asthma, toxic poisoning and lung-related deaths.
“It’s no coincidence that the majority of power plants and refineries in the United States are built in low-income neighborhoods,” Hastings continued. “Our government cannot ignore obvious dangers simply because they are posed to citizens with little political influence. I hope that this forum is a step in the right direction to meet the needs of our society. Justice should never be reserved only for those who can afford to help themselves. I look forward to working with President Obama and my colleagues in Congress to solve these disparities.”
Congressman Hastings led the first effort to incorporate environmental justice principles in appropriations legislation. Additionally, he has co-authored key legislation to codify Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, signed by former President Clinton in 1994. Hastings has also authored legislation in the 109th and 110th Congresses on developing capacity for environmental justice communities through initiatives to identify environmental burdens and mitigate their impacts. He will introduce related legislation in the 112th Congress.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings is Vice Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, a senior member of the House Rules Committee, and Co-Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.