Environment & Science

Environmental justice a newly strengthened federal focus

Federal officials are putting the final touches on a framework plan to improve environmental policies in low-income and minority neighborhoods.

Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton made environmental justice a national policy. The idea is that poorer people who often live in densely populated areas are more vulnerable to the health and environmental effects of pollution from multiple sources.

Current Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson has doubled the budget for environmental justice in the last couple of years. Now federal authorities have proposed incorporating environmental justice principles into making and enforcing rules, granting permits and programs that develop better environments in these communities.

The benefits could add up quickly in Boyle Heights, Pacoima and the harbor communities – where officials already have said they're targeting toxic hotspots. A grants program for vulnerable neighborhoods and job training programs for brownfields areas could improve those neighborhoods.

The federal EPA is seeking public comment on the plan through the end of April.