Environmental Injustice at the EPA, Part III

In parts I and II, I wrote about the “environmental justice” initiative in the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency. Briefly, I argued that there is no legislative authority for the EPA to enforce a regimen of “environmental justice,” and there is a danger that the agency will misuse its permitting authority to coerce companies subject to its regulation to comply with extra-legal demands. Voluntarily, of course.

In Part II, I wrote about a developing situation in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the EPA is promoting the idea that owners of local refineries should pay to relocate people who live near them–a remedy for which the EPA has no legal authority. I noted that the EPA appears to be oblivious to the fact that for the most part, residents of the neighborhoods in question have no desire to move, and the EPA’s potential program of mass removal could have the result of destroying those communities.

Today was the first in what promises to be a series of meetings involving the EPA, community leaders, local officials and representatives of the refineries. It tended to confirm the concerns I expressed about the illegitimacy of the environmental justice agenda. The meeting began with Al Armendariz, Administrator for EPA’s South Central Region (Region 6), making a comment to the effect that the refineries in Corpus Christi have enjoyed several years of “record profits,” and that they need to step up and fund solutions for the community.

This is not just a non sequitur, it is a completely inappropriate use of the EPA’s powers. The EPA has no mandate to carry out income redistribution programs. It enforces federal air and water quality standards. For the EPA to use its regulatory powers to try to compel companies subject to its jurisdiction to buy new homes for people who live nearby, which they have no legal obligation to do, is an outrage. This is one more manifestation of the “gangster government,” as memorably christened by Michael Barone, that the Obama administration has become.

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