The EPA-Environmental Protection Agency was established on December 2, 1970 under Republican President Richard Nixon’s administration in the wake of elevated concerns about the environment.

On October 28, 2016, the EPA released their 5-year Environmental Justice-EJ strategic plan for advancing environmental justice for the years 2016-2020.

What does the plan entail and how would that effect people of color?

In the 46 years of the EPA existence, under President Obama’s administration there is an urban and tribal community plan for the EPA that targets, protects, educates, partners, and motivates people of color to get actively involved in environmental issues that have direct effects on the air they breathe and the water they drink. This is a big deal for the EPA to admit that the agency has been slow in correcting systemic failings in urban and tribal communities.

Blacks and Latino are twice as likely to live near chemical facilities and industrial pollution areas as Whites, accordingly to the Center of Effective Government. The NAACP is becoming increasingly passionate about the environment because environmental violations of civil rights are at play and closely intertwined with health and economic opportunities in the urban community.

Take for example the Standing Sioux Tribe of North Dakota, which is currently battling the federal government to protect their water supply from toxic contamination of a proposed pipeline.  Under the plan the EPA is encouraging environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club to be more diverse in their hiring and volunteer base of minority groups to effectively educate all America on environmental issues.

Historically, the environmental movement has been prominently affluent Whites that do not face the same environmental issues as the urban population.  There are currently national environmental groups that are making inroads in these communities.  The EPA are increasing their programs in the Latino community in an effort to expand their network.  The Hispanic population is the largest ethnic or minority in our nation, making up 17 percent of total population at 55 million.

The Environmental Justice (EJ 2020) strategic plan has three goals, with an emphasis on populations that are low-income and in underserviced communities.

Increasing environmental enforcement resources in 100 targeted overburdened communities where known environmental violators of pollution are not in compliance of EPA rules. Supporting day-to-day needs through community based work to revitalize communities affected by environmental violators. The EPA will convene partners to identify geographic areas with the greatest lead exposure, reduce sources of lead contamination and take national action to reduce lead in drinking water in under serviced communities.

It is time for all of America to get involved in environmental issues, not just to save the environment, but to save ourselves.

Cathy Allen is an award-winning Urban Environmentalist, the co-creator of G.R.A.S.S. (Growing Resources After Sowing Seed) as well as Chair of the “Grow-It Eat It” campaign. G.R.A.S.S. is an environmental entrepreneurial nonprofit program based on the fundamentals of gardening, agriculture and ecology. In conjunction with Baltimore City Public Schools, Allen’s campaign has planted over a half-million trees on the lawns of Baltimore City public schools.}She can be reached at


Cathy Allen

AFRO Science Writer