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[blockquote size=”full” align=”right” byline=”EPA”]Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.[/blockquote]

It’s ironic, but true. We work for environmental justice, but it often fights us.

There’s little debate – many of our poorest live in neighborhoods with compromised air quality. It’s a chicken and egg issue: do communities of color receive less pollution abatement because of their weaker political clout, or is the dirty air keeping the real estate prices low which attract the most vulnerable?

Picture yourself living there – if you had a daughter with asthma and you wanted to take her to the beach, would air quality be one of the things you’d plan for? Picnic supplies, suntan lotion, towels – directions to the nearest hospital…

But as we’d lobby for reducing beach bonfires and better beach air quality, we’d often be confronted by communities of color. The NAACP and LULAC would testify against us, using unsubtle claims of racism.

Wood burning is popular – some go so far to call it a god-given right. Maybe you’ve experienced the push-back in your community. It’s tough to make the arguments stick.

In many of our most economically challenged communities people will burn wood to heat their homes – to save money – even though they’ll pay a big offsetting expense in health care costs.

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