White House Council on Economic Quality Archives - Shopfloor

If Jobs are the Priority, What’s Environmental Justice?

By | Economy, General, Global Warming | 9 Comments

President Obama made headlines by meeting with CEOs earlier this week, offering a hint of an Administration becoming friendlier toward business and pursuing a “path that will lead to economic success.” Attendees regarded the discussions as a positive exchange about jobs and the economy.

Yet at the same time, the White House was hosting its “White House Forum on Environmental Justice” with an implicit anti-business bias and calls for economic redistribution. Private-sector jobs were not really an issue.

Five cabinet secretaries participated, and the Administration officials were for the most part recondite, vague or bureaucratically uplifting in their comments. From the multi-agency news release:

“Low-income and minority communities often shoulder an unacceptable amount of pollution in this country, diminishing their economic potential and threatening the health of millions of American families,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “The White House Forum underlines the commitment across the Administration to integrating environmental justice into the missions of Federal agencies, and ensuring this really is a country of equal opportunity for all.”

The trouble with “environmental justice” is that it means whatever the activists and grievance groups want it to mean. For some, it’s compensation because their ethnic groups or communities were exposed to pollution, for others it’s elevating their particular environmental cause over others, as the claim, “Environmental justice is climate justice.” It might be federal direction of local urban planning, more funding for mass transit and bicycles or promoting “green jobs.”

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he was troubled because he didn’t see enough minorities at Yellowstone National Park, so apparently “environmental justice” also means subsidies for travel budgets to visit Wyoming. (Audio clip)

And if the low-income and minority communities shoulder an unacceptable burden of pollution, of course it’s business that causes that pollution. “Environmental justice” then becomes a bludgeon with which to beat up the private sector.

In the hour or so of the afternoon discussions we listened to Wednesday, we heard class- and race-based pleas for federal money and programs, along with unsubtle accusations of racism. One attendee railed that after Hurricane Katrina, “The recovery process has been so racist in design, in every area,” and, “They’re trying to kill us.”

This isn’t necessarily surprising rhetoric to have come the “environmental justice” crowd, but it’s alarming to hear at the White House. And it’s just weird to hear Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, describe her department’s focus on environmental justice and climate adaptation. (Audio, our transcript): Read More