Friday, June 08, 2012

Sometimes, environmental justice is neither

For years, special-interest groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club have changed the American business landscape under the premise of advancing environmental justice. But in many cases, those changes have done more harm than good for the people they are designed to protect. Mr. Driessen recounted a case from 1998, when Shintech Inc. had planned to build a plastics factory in the poor, black community of Convent, La. Sierra Club activists opposed it, raising fears that dioxins from the factory could lead to increased cancer rates among minority residents there. EPA denied approval of a construction permit, so the company built its factory in a largely white community in nearby Plaquemine instead. The company had been expected to bring 2,000 jobs to Convent, Mr. Driessen said. Not only did those people lose the chance for employment, but they also lost the health care benefits that would have come with those jobs. “You are denying people the jobs and better living standards and better health that comes from that,” he said. “Where is the environmental justice in denying them access" to those things? Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and of Project 21, a network of black conservatives, remembers speaking with residents of Convent. “Folks were very upset, a lot of folks that had come from hundreds of miles away,” he said. “A lot of do-gooders came in, were successful in shutting down the plant, and scores of families who depended on the plant for their livelihoods were left without jobs.”  The Sierra Club never actually had to prove its cancer claims to prevent the factory from being built. In fact, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality said in a July 1997 environmental impact statement that “dioxins were never detected … from these manufacturing facilities.” Mr. Driessen said this is not unusual outcome, and that he often questions data from what he considers to be biased environmental groups — including the EPA itself...more

No comments: