Letter to John F. Kerry
April 28, 2003
April 28, 2003
The Honorable John F. Kerry
304 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Kerry:
As members of the national
advisory council of the African-American leadership network Project
21, we were interested to learn of your recent remarks on the
topic of environmental justice.
We share your commendable commitment
to making certain that all Americans, regardless of color and
economic status, receive equal benefits from our environmental
Project 21, through its Center
for Environmental Justice, has reviewed numerous environmental
and regulatory policies from an environmental justice perspective,
and not long ago completed a nearly two-year econometric analysis
of the impact of smart growth policies on minority homeownership
Our work on environmental justice
is made public in the form of opinion pieces and interviews.
Our environmental justice work is published in the form of op-eds
or cited by the mainstream or minority press an average of 30
times per month - recently, for example, in the Chicago Tribune,
San Francisco Chronicle and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
So that we might accurately
discuss and/or refer to your position, we are writing to clarify
your point of view on one aspect of the environmental justice
issue that rarely receives the attention we believe it is due:
that of black and other minority communities bearing a disproportionately
high share of the economic costs of environmental policies.
Our studies have revealed that
black and other minority households at times bear a disproportionately
high share of the economic burden for environmental laws and
regulations. In other words, on average, blacks and Hispanics
at times bear a greater per capita share of the economic burden
for environmental protection than do non-Hispanic whites.
We do not believe that this unfortunate circumstance is always
or even frequently the result of aggressively racist intentions.
Rather, we believe it is neglect: when environmental programs
are planned, insufficient care is taken to assure that the economic
burden for the policy, if any, is not disproportionately borne
When smart growth policies
are designed, for example, we support a greater consideration
of the importance of protecting the ability of blacks and Hispanics
to afford homes. We do not believe that most Americans wish to,
nor do we need to, undermine minority homeownership in order
to have livable communities.
Because of our concerns, we
are writing to you today to clarify your position on several
straightforward aspects of the environmental justice issue. We
would very much appreciate a response to these questions:
1) Does your commitment to
environmental justice include the belief that minorities should
not pay a disproportionately high share of the costs, if any,
for environmental protections?
2) Have you or your staff ever
conducted, or encouraged/directed others to conduct, a review
of the economic impact upon blacks, Hispanics and/or other minorities
of any environmental policies already in effect? If so, would
you be willing to share the results of any reviews with us?
3) As part of your commitment
to environmental justice for minorities, would you be willing
to commit to reviewing the economic costs of proposed environmental
programs, to make certain they are not borne disproportionately
by minorities, before supporting them?
4) Would you support a presidential
executive order, perhaps modeled after President Clinton's Executive
Order 12898 on environmental justice, that would direct agencies
to study ways to make certain the costs of federal environmental
policies are not disproportionately borne by minorities?
We hope you agree with us that
black and Hispanic Americans, who historically have had a lower
per capita income than other Americans, should not bear a greater
per capita share of the economic burden for environmental protections
than white, non-Hispanic Americans.
We would greatly appreciate
a response to our questions, which may be directed to the attention
of our staff director, David Almasi, for distribution to us.
We thank you for your kind
attention to this issue.
Members of the Project 21
National Advisory Committee
Edmund Peterson, Chairman
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ft. Worth, Texas
Kimberley Jane Wilson