An environmental justice center at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health has issued a highly critical “scorecard” grading nine state agencies on their practices and policies for protecting the environment and prioritizing services to communities disproportionately harmed by environmental racism.
Only the Department of the Environment and the Department of Natural Resources received grades as high as Cs or Bs in 2019, 2020 and 2021, while the Public Service Commission received straight Ds and the other six agencies received Ds and Fs. On a scorecard on which not a single A grade was awarded, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Housing & Community Development and the Maryland Energy Administration received straight Fs.
The Environmental Justice Agency Scorecard, released last week by the Center for Community Engagement, Environmental Justice and Health (CEEJH) at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, graded the agencies on five performance indicators.
Those indicators include establishment of environmental justice offices and policies to protect the environment; prioritizing low-income and communities of colors disproportionately harmed by climate change and pollution; building environmental literacy and working proactively to counter environmental racism.
“There needs to be an executive order from the governor’s office providing some guidance on how environmental justice is integrated into the strategic plans implemented by each agency,” Dr. Sacoby Wilson, a professor of applied environmental health and the center’s director, said.
In compiling the scorecard, researchers collected and analyzed publicly available data and then communicated with agencies about their scores, adjusting them in response to the feedback and additional materials the agencies provided. They looked at the agencies’ performance over a three-year period, from 2019 through 2021.
Based on the scorecard, the state’s primary environmental agencies—the Department of the Environment (MDE) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR)—earned Cs in 2019 and were bumped to Bs in 2020 and 2021, after making progress on equity and justice issues in their planning.
Jay Apperson, deputy director for the MDE’s Office of Communication, said that the department has been partnering with Wilson for the past two years and “engaging communities and conducting outreach to communities with EJ concerns.”
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Apperson said the department has developed a new EJ screening tool “to support compliance, permitting and outreach/engagement.” The agency will review the scorecard, he said, “for new ideas to improve equity and justice as we execute our mission with oversight and engagement with federal partners and the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities.”
The office of Gov. Larry Hogan did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The Public Service Commission, the agency which regulates matters involving public and private utilities and ratepayers’ interests, wasn’t able to improve on its D grade over the three years. Both the Departments of Transportation and Health received Fs for 2019 and 2020, and climbed to Ds in 2021.
Tori Leonard, the PSC’s director of communications, said on Wednesday that the commission did not even know until last year that it was being graded and was not contacted for input.
“Once we learned about the scorecard, Chairman Jason Stanek and several members of our team met with [Wilson] and his graduate assistant to better understand their interests and shared with them a wealth of information about how environmental justice considerations are embedded in the Commission’s activities,” she said. “[W]e have since added an EJ fact sheet to our website.”
The survey found that some agencies performed well in one category but received low overall scores. “For example, some agencies were proactive in their EJ work, but their plans and progress were not transparent and available to the general public. Another commonly missing component was the lack of an EJ representative and/or office,” the center’s report on the scorecard said.
The agencies collectively scored the highest in 2021 on prioritizing communities impacted by environmental racism, making it the most improved criterion over the study period. This was the lowest scoring category across the board in 2019 and 2020.
The report recommended that each state agency should develop an EJ strategic plan, provide anti-racism training for employees and introduce policies promoting restorative action. It also stressed the need to “directly acknowledge” environmental racism and, just as importantly, emphasized the need to implement the Biden administration’s Justice40 recommendations at the state level. Justice40 calls for allocating at least 40 percent of new federal funding for climate change and environmental protection to environmental justice communities.
Disproportionate exposure to environmental harms in communities of color and low-income communities has been well documented in Maryland. “African Americans in Maryland are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, and stroke. African Americans in the state are also 1.1 times more likely to suffer from asthma, and 2.3 times more likely to die from asthma, compared to whites,” a 2015 study by the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic said.
The study concluded that the state’s efforts over the last 15 years produced “very little progress in addressing environmental disparities in communities of color and low-income communities.”
The EJ scorecard for Maryland agencies coincided with a new federal initiative led by the Environmental Protection Agency, which last week announced a new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights in line with President Biden’s commitment to address legacy environmental racism through federal investments.
Still, the $2 trillion recently authorized by Congress for infrastructure funding may not end up benefiting the communities under Justice40, according to a recent 50-state survey of state policies that affect how the money is allocated.
Released by the nonprofit Lawyers for Good Government, the survey found that only 31 percent of states had defined “disadvantaged community” in the climate or equity space to better focus their programs. “Only 25 percent of states have an active map identifying ‘disadvantaged communities,’ the survey said, and only 17 percent have existing or proposed guidelines related to implementing Biden’s Justice40 initiative.
The survey said that the federal agencies have started to roll out guidelines that require states and local governments to identify and prioritize underserved communities within their jurisdictions. “This process requires states to not only possess knowledge of disadvantaged communities within their boundaries, but also to undertake meaningful community engagement before project lists are finalized and applications are submitted,” the survey said.
The survey rated Maryland among better performing states with an established Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, and a dedicated infrastructure manager at the governor’s office to coordinate federal funding. The state had passed the Climate Solutions Now Act in April 2022, it stated, which provided a comprehensive definition of “overburdened” and “underserved” communities to receive targeted benefits from climate-related funding, mitigation and adaptation efforts.
The EJ scorecard recognized that the Maryland Department of the Environment, along with the Department of Natural Resources, did a better job in addressing equity and justice concerns and graded them as Bs for 2021.
The scorecard did not attempt to assess the regulatory performance of the MDE, which was roundly criticized by the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental advocates and some state legislators for poor performance in 2021.
In one 2021 report, the EPA estimated that MDE needed 187 percent more full-time employees and 93 percent more funding to ensure that the public has access to safe drinking water.
Tyler Abbott, MDE chief of staff, acknowledged the understaffing and underfunding in testimony before state lawmakers in March.“We estimate that there will be an additional 10,500 inspections needed to be performed yearly by MDE staff,” he said, adding that about 91 additional staff and about 55 vehicles were needed to carry out the inspections. MDE has estimated it would cost $9 million to improve staffing for inspections and to clear a growing pile of expired permits, some of which lapsed years ago.
In February testimony supporting the legislation calling on MDE to step up enforcement actions, state Del. Sara Love, a Montgomery County Democrat, said that 42 percent of pollution control permits for municipal sewage plants, factory wastewater treatment facilities and other sources of pollution had expired, but were allowed to continue because the agency could not process timely renewals. In some cases, the permits had expired 10 and 15 years ago, with scant inspections and compliance actions that failed to check frequent violations.
The legislation—HB649—which became the law on July 1, required MDE to submit a report to the governor and the General Assembly by Oct. 1 identifying the number of employees the agency needs to clear the backlog of permits continuing beyond their expiration and ensure timely renewals. By Dec 31, the agency should request additional funding for the staff identified in the October report.
The federal initiative will push the state environmental agencies such as MDE to do more on equity and justice and initiate similar steps as the EPA, Wilson said. At the moment, Maryland has no plan of action to integrate equity and justice across the executive branch of state government, which is why they received such poor grades on the scorecard, he said.
Wilson said that Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican preparing to leave office after his second four-year term, “ has had no interest in environmental justice, and in fact sidelined equity concerns by not holding the agencies accountable, or providing the conditions for the state agencies to do more about justice and equity concerns.”
Most agencies do not even have proper information about their programs on their websites, he added, making it difficult for the communities to get basic information or engage with officials. “There’s a lack of transparency. To me that denotes that you’re not serious about environmental justice,” he said.
Wilson said plans are afoot to improve the scorecard in future years with ratings of agencies on their regulatory records and enforcement actions to better understand the implications for environmental justice. “If you’re going to advance and promote justice and equity in the state of Maryland, you have to have environmental justice in your strategic plan and an EJ office,” he said. “You cannot do a serious investment in these areas without having that type of infrastructure.”
Reporter, Washington, D.C.
Aman Azhar is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who covers environmental justice for Inside Climate News with focus on Baltimore-Maryland area. He has previously worked as a broadcast journalist and multimedia producer for the BBC World Service, VOA News and other international news organizations, reporting from London, Islamabad, the United Arab Emirates and New York. He holds a graduate degree in Anthropology of Media from University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and an MA in Political Science from the University of the Punjab, and is the recipient of the Chevening scholarship from the UK government and an academic scholarship for graduate studies from the Australian government.
Which organization is responsible for ensuring environmental justice? ›
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) are the organizations responsible for ensuring environmental justice.How does the Environmental Protection Agency define environmental justice? ›
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.What is the Office of environmental justice's role in environmental justice? ›
Provide fair and equal treatment and involvement of all people in the environmental decision making process.What does environmental justice have to do with social justice? ›
Environmental justice is primarily concerned with the positive as well as negative effects that different environmental factors can have on communities and individuals. Social justice aims to ensure fair treatment of individuals and groups.What rights does environmental justice seek to provide? ›
Environmental justice affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment, without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards.What is the goal of environmental justice? ›
Environmental justice (EJ) is based on the principle that all people have a right to be protected from environmental pollution, and to live in and enjoy a clean and healthful environment.What is the difference between acts of environmental justice and environmental injustice? ›
Environmental injustice recognizes that economically disadvantaged groups are adversely affected by environmental hazards more than other groups. To remedy this dilemma, environmental justice seeks to address these unfair burdens of environmental health hazards on poor communities.What is an example of an environmental justice issue? ›
Environmental justice issues and examples include inadequate access to healthy food, inadequate transportation, air and water pollution, and unsafe homes.What are the goals of the environmental justice movement and why are the relevant to sustainability? ›
what are the goals of the environmental justice movement, and why are they relevant to sustainability? goals: keep a healthy planet for the future and to promote sustainability. sustainability is relevant because it is treating the earth in a way that promotes life on earth.What needs should be given the highest priority in making decisions involving the environment human needs or environmental protections? ›
Six criteria for evaluating environmental decisions are suggested: human and environmental well-being, competence about facts and values, fairness in process and outcome, a reliance on human strengths rather than weaknesses, the opportunity to learn and efficiency.
What are the acts of environmental justice? ›
Summary: The Environmental Justice Act establishes a commission to investigate incidents of environmental racism and coordinate government efforts to ensure that minorities and low-income citizens are not disproportionately subjected to environmental hazards. This Act shall be called the “Environmental Justice Act.”Is there a difference between environmental justice and climate justice? ›
Environmental justice serves as a lens through which social justice principles can be incorporated into the realm of fair sustainability. On the other hand, climate justice promotes an urgent action needed to prevent climate change must be based on community-led solutions around the world.What are 2 environmental issues that could lead to environmental injustice? ›
Pollution, climate change, and more have stripped from these communities the right to their most basic needs: clean water, food, air, and safe housing. Here's a look at how these issues spurred the environmental justice movement—and how much work still needs to be done.What is the difference between social justice and injustice? ›
Social justice is a type of justice rooted in the idea that all people should have equal rights, opportunity and treatment. Definition of social injustice: Social injustice is when actions are taken that infringe upon a group's rights, marginalize their opportunities or treat them unfairly.What is Climate Justice simple words? ›
Climate justice means finding solutions to the climate crisis that not only reduce emissions or protect the natural world, but that do so in a way which creates a fairer, more just and more equal world in the process.What causes environmental injustice? ›
Environmental injustice can result from a variety of factors, but usually stems from special interest groups alienating other groups within the community. Some of the specific causes of environmental injustice include: Intentional and unintentional racism/racial discrimination. Alienating low-income community members.What are major environmental problems? ›
These include pollution, overpopulation, waste disposal, climate change, global warming, the greenhouse effect, etc.What are some issues the environmental justice movement are trying to address? ›
By 1990, leaders of the growing environmental justice movement began to look for allies among the traditional, primarily white environmental organizations. These were groups that had long fought to protect wilderness, endangered species, clean air and clean water.Why is caring for the environment a social justice issue? ›
Issues that impact the environment have impacts on the people who live there as well. And when some people have access to resources that help them relieve those impacts while others don't, that becomes a social justice issue.What are 4 social issues that could lead to environmental injustice? ›
The most 4 social issues that could lead to environmental injustice is Anti-Social behavior, Poverty, Drug-abuse, racial discrimination.
Who is the father of environmental justice? ›
Robert Bullard: The Father of Environmental Justice | Climate One.What does fair treatment mean in environmental health? ›
Fair treatment means no group bears a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences from industrial, governmental, and commercial operations or policies, or from the execution of federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and policies.What is the difference between environmental justice and environmental racism? ›
Environmental racism is the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. Environmental justice is the movement's response to environmental racism.How does environmental justice relate to environmental ethics? ›
Environmental Justice. Environmental justice is the social justice expression of environmental ethics. The environmental justice movement emerged to challenge the unfair distribution of toxic, hazardous and dangerous waste facilities, which were disproportionately located in low income communities of color.What does environmental injustice do? ›
Environmental injustice can be defined as the disproportionate exposure of commu- nities of color and the poor to pollution, and its concomitant effects on health and environment, as well as the unequal envi- ronmental protection and environmental quality provided through laws, regulations, governmental programs, ...Why is it important to make ethical decisions about environmental issues? ›
consider the opinions of all stakeholders. recognize that organisms and ecosystems may have rights. consider how local decisions may affect distant environments. All of the options involve ethical decisions.What is an environmental justice problem caused by climate warming? ›
Warmer temperatures lead to the creation of more smog, particularly during summer. And wildfires, fueled by heat waves and drought, produce smoke that contains toxic pollutants.When businesses form voluntary collaborative partnerships with environmental organizations and regulators to achieve specific objectives this is called? ›
When businesses form voluntary, collaborative partnerships with environmental organizations and regulators to achieve specific objectives this is called: Environmental partnerships.How does the ethical orientation of the environmental justice movement help make it distinct from conventional environmentalism? ›
Although environmentalism focuses upon and acknowledges the negative impact of humanity's actions upon the environment, the environmental justice movement builds upon the philosophy and work of environmentalism by stressing the manner in which adversely impacting the environment in turn adversely impacts the population ...What are the objectives of environmental protection? ›
The act came into force in 1986. It authorizes the central government to improve and protect environmental quality, reduce and control pollution from the sources, and restrict or prevent the setting and operation of any industrial facility on environmental grounds.
What moral responsibility do we have in dealing with the major environmental problems that result from our resource consumption? ›
Human beings owe the environment a moral obligation to conserve it as most of the environmental degradation comes from human activities. In this case, protecting the environment simply means that we are trying to protect humanity.What ethics should be followed for the protection of environment? ›
The environment should be protected in the name of serving human welfare. The environment should be protected in the name of serving future generations' welfare. The environment should be protected in the name of serving animal welfare. The environment should be protected for its own sake.What possible environmental conservation practices or mitigating measures can you recommend easing the increasing ecological problems we face today? ›
- Replace disposable items with reusable. ...
- Pass on paper. ...
- Conserve water & electricity. ...
- Support local & environmentally friendly. ...
- Recycle (& then recycle properly)
Environmental justice issues and examples include inadequate access to healthy food, inadequate transportation, air and water pollution, and unsafe homes.What are the three core concepts of environmental justice? ›
1. Environmental justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.Why is environmental justice important? ›
Environmental justice is important because it is a basic human right. It allows everyone to have some level of agency over the decisions that impact their lives. Without environmental justice, many people are made to be victims of the plans and ambitions of others.What does climate and environmental justice mean? ›
A definition of climate justice: “As a form of environmental justice, climate justice is the fair treatment of all people and the freedom from discrimination in the creation of policies and projects that address climate change as well as the systems that create climate change and perpetuate discrimination.”What are some solutions to climate equity and justice issues? ›
- Impact Our Communities. Include a community impact analysis on every design project to reflect local values and ensure design solutions do not create injustices within or to neighboring communities.
- Take Community Action. ...
- Prioritize Local Action. ...
- Commit to Common Goals. ...
- Embrace Prefabrication.
Environmental injustice recognizes that economically disadvantaged groups are adversely affected by environmental hazards more than other groups. To remedy this dilemma, environmental justice seeks to address these unfair burdens of environmental health hazards on poor communities.Which should be prioritized by the government environment protection or economic development justify? ›
The basis for this view is the idea that environmental quality comes only after basic needs such as food and housing are met. So, countries should focus initially on economic growth even if it comes at the expense of environmental quality.
How do you fight injustice in society? ›
- Examine your beliefs and habits. ...
- Educate yourself about social justice issues. ...
- Discover your local organizations. ...
- Take positive action in your own community. ...
- Harness the power of social media. ...
- Attend demonstrations and protests. ...
- Volunteer. ...
Environmental justice serves as a lens through which social justice principles can be incorporated into the realm of fair sustainability. On the other hand, climate justice promotes an urgent action needed to prevent climate change must be based on community-led solutions around the world.How does the EPA affect environmental policy? ›
EPA has responsibility to prepare its own NEPA documents for compliance. EPA is charged under Section 309 of the Clean Air Act to review the environmental impact statements (EIS) of other federal agencies and to comment on the adequacy and the acceptability of the environmental impacts of the proposed action.What is an example of environmental justice? ›
Environmental justice issues and examples include inadequate access to healthy food, inadequate transportation, air and water pollution, and unsafe homes.Who started the environmental justice movement? ›
The initial environmental justice spark sprang from a Warren County, North Carolina, protest. In 1982, a small, predominately African-American community was designated to host a hazardous waste landfill. This landfill would accept PCB-contaminated soil that resulted from illegal dumping of toxic waste along roadways.Is Earthjustice a nonprofit? ›
At Earthjustice, we're a nonprofit in the business of building a better future. We represent our clients free of charge.What is the purpose of an environmental assessment? ›
Environmental Assessments (EAs) and associated documents are generated to fulfill the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). EAs are used to determine if significant environmental impacts would occur as a result of a FEMA action or a FEMA funded action.What is included in an environmental assessment? ›
A NEPA EA is a comprehensive study that identifies environmental impacts of a land development action and analyzes a broad set of parameters including biodiversity, environmental justice, wetlands, air and water pollution, traffic, geotechnical risks, public safety issues and also hazardous substance issues.What are the 5 environmental laws? ›
Environmental Impact Assessment Law (PD 1586) Toxic Substances And Hazardous Waste Management Act (RA 6969) Clean Air Act Of 1999 (RA 8749) Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003)What is the difference between climate justice and environmental justice? ›
Environmental justice serves as a lens through which social justice principles can be incorporated into the realm of fair sustainability. On the other hand, climate justice promotes an urgent action needed to prevent climate change must be based on community-led solutions around the world.
What are 3 environmental issues that could lead to environmental injustice? ›
Pollution, climate change, and more have stripped from these communities the right to their most basic needs: clean water, food, air, and safe housing. Here's a look at how these issues spurred the environmental justice movement—and how much work still needs to be done.What are 4 social issues that could lead to environmental injustice? ›
The most 4 social issues that could lead to environmental injustice is Anti-Social behavior, Poverty, Drug-abuse, racial discrimination.Who is affected by environmental justice? ›
Environmental injustice and environmental racism are unacceptable and cause detrimental health conditions, as well as premature deaths, in communities across the United States. Unfortunately, it is often the most at-risk in society who are affected by environmental injustice, including minority and poor communities.What is the difference between environmental justice and environmental injustice? ›
Environmental injustice recognizes that economically disadvantaged groups are adversely affected by environmental hazards more than other groups. To remedy this dilemma, environmental justice seeks to address these unfair burdens of environmental health hazards on poor communities.What is an example of environmental injustice? ›
“Environmental injustice” refers to a set of actions that harm the environment while simultaneously alienating specific groups and communities. A common example of this phenomenon is a company that pollutes local water sources, which in turn contaminates drinking water and causes health problems within a community.What's the best environmental charity? ›
- Climate Foundations.
- Clean Air Task Force.
- Cool Earth.
- Rainforest Foundation US.
- Climate Emergency Fund.
- 1000 Gretas.
- Environmental Defense Fund.
Mahesh Chandra Mehta, an environmental lawyer, has fought for a cleaner environment in India for over ten years. In so doing he has won awards for his activism such as the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service and the Goldman Award.Is the environmental Defense Fund legitimate? ›
Good. This charity's score is 86.78, earning it a 3-Star rating. Donors can "Give with Confidence" to this charity.