August 4, 2010; Source: ColorLines | This nice piece of investigative reporting by ColorLines (published by the Applied Research Center) highlights an ongoing problem and ongoing philanthropic need. The ongoing problem is environmental justice, or injustice, we should say. The BP strategy is to dump the waste product from the oil clean up in municipal landfills that just happen to be in predominantly minority communities.
The EPA has approved 9 municipal landfills for BP waste, 5 of which are in minority communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. According to Colorlines, the only place that was able to organize and stop the dumping was a predominantly white community. An additional white community in Florida was concerned that it was being targeted for dumping until it learned that the target was actually a similarly named community whose population is 75 percent African-American.
The important subtext to us is the need for environmental justice grantmaking so that minority communities do not continue to be the victims rather than beneficiaries of environmental remediation programs.
Only a small portion of foundations’ environmental grantmaking goes to environmental justice projects. The BP aftermath makes a good case for renewed attention to the subject of environmental justice and the need for EJ foundation dollars.—Rick Cohen