Greenaction is a national leader in challenging government agencies that receive federal and/or state funding to consider civil rights impacts and to refrain from racially discriminatory permit and regulatory processes and decisions.
Delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held on October 24-27, 1991, in Washington DC, drafted and adopted 17 principles of Environmental Justice. Since then, The Principles of Environmental Justice have served as a defining document for the grassroots movement for environmental justice. Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice adheres to and follows these principles in our organization and in all of our work.
As an organization founded by, and led by, grassroots leaders from frontline urban, rural and Indigenous communities impacted by pollution, racism and injustice, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice works with our community partners in the fight for environmental, social, economic and climate justice.
We know that pollution disproportionately impacts low income and people of color, with dirty industries such as dumps, incinerators, chemical plants and refineries disproportionately located in and targeted for these communities. For example, in California, all three hazardous waste landfills are located in Latino, Spanish speaking farmworker communities. Adding insult to injury, the permits issued to these toxic waste companies were based on racially discriminatory permit processes that denied the non-English speaking and Latino residents meaningful and equal opportunities to participate in the government decision-making processes.
Racially discriminatory permit or regulatory processes are not just unfair and unjust, they are illegal under state and federal civil rights laws. Civil rights laws prohibit government agencies that receive state or federal funding from taking actions that directly discriminate or have a negative, discriminatory, disproportionate impact on protected classes of people – including people of color and non-English speakers. Most government agencies continue pretending that civil rights laws are not part of their decision-making processes, but Greenaction is successfully challenging that false claim that allows environmental racism to continue.
In 2016, Greenaction and El Pueblo Para el Aire y Agua Limpio/People for Clean Air and Water of Kettleman City reached a landmark, precedent-setting settlement of our Title VI Civil Rights Complaint against the California EPA and state Department of Toxic Substances Control. This settlement required the DTSC to comply with civil rights in their permit and regulatory processes and decisions statewide, adopt civil rights and language access policies, adopt criteria to consider cumulative impacts in their permit decisions, reject the use of “hostile environments” such as police dogs and police intimidation at public hearings, and take other measures to reduce pollution in Kettleman City.
When the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (California) failed to translate notices or documents about permits for polluting projects, Greenaction filed and settled a federal Title VI Civil Rights Complaint that resulted in the Air District agreeing to improve translation and notice practices. Read the Settlement.
When the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority’s English-only permit and public participation process was challenged by Greenaction and our community partner Asamblea de Gonzales with a state civil rights complaint under California Government Code 11135, the SVSWA had to implement a much-improved public notice, public participation and language access process. Read Settlement ( Part 1 | Part 2 )