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Native Brief: WASHINGTON - For decades, American Indians have had to deal with environmental and health hazards near their tribal lands throughout Indian Country.
To combat the dangers of environmental and health hazards, the Obama administration is advancing its efforts through a environmental justice memorandum of understanding between several federal agencies that was signed on Thursday, August 4th.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder were joined by agency heads across the Administration in signing the "Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898" (EJ MOU).
"All too often, low-income, minority and Native Americans live in the shadows of our society's worst pollution, facing disproportionate health impacts and greater obstacles to economic growth in communities that can't attract businesses and new jobs. Expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice are some of my top priorities for the work of the EPA, and we're glad to have President Obama's leadership and the help of our federal partners in this important effort," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Every agency has a unique and important role to play in ensuring that all communities receive the health and environmental protections they deserve. Our broad collaboration will mean real progress for overburdened communities."
"Today's memorandum will reinforce the federal government's commitment to the guiding principles of environmental justice - that the wealth, poverty, or race of any people should not determine the quality and health of the environment in which they live their lives," said Holder. "These are important steps to ensure that environmental justice is an integral part of our work."
"Today, we understand better than ever that our health is not just determined by what happens in the doctor's office. It is affected by where we live, work, go to school and play, by what we eat and drink, and by the air we breathe," said US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius. "HHS is committed to working with our partners across government to build healthy communities, especially in those areas burdened by environmental hazards."
"Every community deserves strong federal protection against pollution and other environmental hazards," said US Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "The Department of the Interior is committed to ensuring environmental justice for all populations in the United States - including American Indians, Alaska Natives and rural communities who may be among the most vulnerable to health risks."
Environmental justice means that all communities overburdened by pollution - particularly minority, low income and tribal communities - deserve the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, equal access to the Federal decision-making process, and a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
The following agencies signed the EJ MOU: Environmental Protection Agency; White House Council on Environmental Quality; Department of Health and Human Services; Department of Justice; Department of Agriculture; Department of Commerce; Department of Defense; Department of Education; Department of Energy; Department of Homeland Security; Department of Housing and Urban Development; Department of Interior; Department of Labor; Department of Transportation; Department of Veterans Affairs; General Services Administration; and Small Business Administration.
posted August 5, 2011 6:40 am edt
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