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Governors will vote to change EPA Environmental Justice Policy

EPA rule faces challenge

Governors to consider request to change environmental policy

By David Mastio / Detroit News Washington Bureau, Feb. 23, 1999

WASHINGTON -- The nation's governors plan to add their voices to the chorus demanding changes in the Environmental Protection Agency's environmental justice policy.

All 50 state governors meeting in Washington today will vote on a resolution calling for major changes in the EPA's controversial rules that use Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to link high pollution levels in minority areas with civil rights violations. The National Governors' Association would join with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National Association of Counties, which already have asked the EPA to change the policy.

The proposed language the governors will consider calls on the EPA to assure any rewritten policy prevents delays in getting permits for new plants and does not disrupt urban redevelopment. The governors' resolution also demands that any final rule be based on peer-reviewed science and include precise definitions. "The resolution hits the points we needed to make," said Russ Harding, Gov. John Engler's chief environmental regulator.

But Harding doubted the opinion of the governors will makes any difference. "Nothing ever seems to work with (EPA Administrator Carol) Browner," he said. Environmentalists pushing for strict environmental justice rules were quick to criticize the governors.

"Some states want Title VI eliminated completely and you can see it in this resolution," said Richard Moore, former chairman of the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. "There need to be assurances that when states aren't doing what they are supposed to (under environmental laws), that our folks have someone to turn to," Moore said. One-third of the governors already have opposed the policy through the Western Governors' Association, which voted unanimously against the EPA policy in June.

Copyright 1999, The Detroit News

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