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E.P.A. Chief Vows to Do More to Protect Poor Communities from Environmental Harm

E.P.A. Chief Vows to Do More to Protect Poor Communities from Environmental Harm

WASHINGTON Michael S. Regan was the administrator of Environmental Protection Agency and he visited Jackson, Miss., in November. He discussed the poor water quality in Jackson’s elementary school. The children must drink bottled water and use portable toilets outside the school.

The halls were almost empty when he arrived. Students were sent home by the school’s water pressure, which was so low that even portable toilets couldn’t flush.

He said that he was inspired by this scene and others he witnessed while he traveled to low income communities in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

The E.P.A. will announce Wednesday that it will increase monitoring and enforcement of federal rules regarding air and water quality. The E.P.A. will announce Wednesday that it will increase monitoring and enforcement of federal regulations regarding air and water quality, especially in communities of color that are disproportionately affected by pollution.

After seeing the situation firsthand and speaking directly to community members, it’s startling how we get to this point, where children miss school days due to unsafe water, Mr. Regan said. He said that the environment conditions he saw in many areas of the nation were unacceptable in the United States of America.

Biden has made addressing the racial disparities in his agenda, including those that relate to the environment, a key part of it. He established an advisory council, which included some of the leaders in the environmental justice movement. He directed agencies to include environmental justice in their decision-making. He also promised that the federal investments in climate and clean-energy programs would be shared with disadvantaged communities at least 40%.

Cecilia Martinez, Mr. Biden’s top environmental justice appointee and David Kieve, another appointee who had done outreach with environmental justice organizations for the White House, both resigned.

Concerns have been raised over the future of Mr. Biden’s environmental justice agenda.

Although Mr. Regan didn’t address the issue directly in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, he stated that he felt obligated to help marginalized communities where people have waited long enough for federal attention. As part of the E.P.A.’s Journey to Justice tour, he has spent the last year visiting towns and meeting community members. He has called his Journey to Justice Tour.

Mr. Regan stated, “I pledge to do better for people in communities that have been suffering for far too long.”

Mr. Regan stated that unannounced inspections will be increased by the agency to keep polluting companies on their toes. This was in response to Trump’s lack of sufficient inspections. The Trump administration declared that the monitoring of polluting industries was cut off abruptly in March 2020, when it stated that they would not be held liable if the pandemic made compliance with federal limits on water and air pollution or the requirements for managing hazardous waste or ensuring safe drinking water difficult.

The E.P.A. was one of the changes announced Wednesday. The E.P.A. announced Wednesday that it would increase the number and use new monitoring methods such as a new aircraft that uses sensors to detect and analyze emissions in real-time.

Robert Taylor, 81 years old, is a long-time resident of St. John Parish in Louisiana and leader of Concerned Citizens of St. John. He became emotional when he described Mr. Regans trip to the region known for its high rates of illness, particularly among Black communities and those living near petrochemical plants.

We were so poor and humiliated by our attempts to protect ourselves. Mr. Taylor stated that we were being attacked and beaten by those who were supposed protect us.

The E.P.A. is located in St. James Parish and St. John the Baptist Parish. The E.P.A. plans to launch pilot air monitoring projects and make data available to the public. It also has $600,000. to pay for mobile air pollution monitoring equipment that will be deployed in those parishes.

The agency also required that the Denka Performance Elastomer St. James Parish plant install monitors along its fence line in order to identify the source and source of its emissions. Residents have complained for years that the chemical chloroprene is used to make Neoprene synthetic rubber.

E.P.A. agreed to comply with the request. said. Denka was not available for comment Tuesday night.

Jackson, Miss., which is a majority Black community, was hit hard by contaminated drinking waters and long-term water outages. Regan informed the E.P.A. Regan had issued a Notice of Noncompliance to Jackson for failing to repair equipment in a timely fashion to ensure safe drinking waters.

The Rev. James Caldwell, founder and director of The Coalition of Community Organizations, Houston’s nonprofit advocacy group, stated that actually showing up and going into communities to see, breathe, and smell what weve been discussing for years was a significant first step towards an E.P.A. administrator.

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