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Letter to House of Representative on Environmental Justice

 

May 19, 2005

United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative:

As Chairman of the Domestic Policy Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to urge you to support two amendments which we understand will be offered to the FY 2006 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill on the House floor.

The first is the Hastings amendment to ensure Executive Order 12898 is fully implemented and prohibit appropriated funds from being used in a manner inconsistent with this Order. Executive Order 12898 directs each federal agency to develop an environmental justice strategy that “identifies and addresses disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, or activities on minority populations and low-income populations” with the goal of achieving environmental justice in federally-funded programs for those communities.

We are concerned about reports that administrative actions identified in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General Report 2004-P-00007, EPA Needs to Consistently Implement the Intent of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice, (March 1, 2004), are inconsistent with Executive Order 12898 and could delay the identification of minority and low-income communities which may be experiencing disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects.

The second is the Stupak/Shaw/Pallone/Jeff Miller amendment, which will prevent the EPA from finalizing the agency's proposed sewage dumping policy, thus protecting public health, our waterways and economies from the effects of sewage dumping. We are concerned about the EPA’s proposed policy that will allow sewage treatment plants to routinely discharge inadequately treated sewage into America's waters whenever it rains. The proposed policy could allow more parasites, bacteria like E. coli, viruses, toxic chemicals and other pollutants into waters.

As Catholics, we share the belief with other people of faith that we are called to be stewards of God’s creation and to actively participate in sustaining creation by caring for our children and their physical environment. We believe that every person possesses a fundamental dignity that comes from God. We defend the right to life and the right of children to live with dignity and to realize the bright promise and opportunity of childhood.

We are particularly concerned about the poor and the powerless who most directly bear the burden and suffer disproportionately from the multiple effects of environmental problems in many low-income communities. As the bishops said in their statement, Renewing the Earth, “The whole human race suffers as a result of environmental blight, and generations yet unborn will bear the price for the failure to act today.”

Experts estimate that almost 8 million Americans get sick each year from waterborne illness. Children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to get sick from coming into contact with contaminated water. Communities likely to be affected include older urban cores where infrastructure is crumbling. In many areas of the country, drinking water intakes can be found downstream of sewer outfalls.

Please protect public health and those most vulnerable in our communities by voting in support of the Hastings environmental justice amendment and the Stupak/Shaw/Pallone/Jeff Miller sewage amendment.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, PhD, DD
Bishop of Brooklyn
Chairman
Domestic Policy Committee

 



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