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Environmental Justice Goal 3



Environmental Justice Strategic Plan - 1995

Goal 1
Goal 2
Goal 3
Goal 4

WHAT WE ARE DOING / WHAT WE CAN DO

Goal 3.

The Department will use and expand its science, research, and data collection capabilities on innovative solutions to environmental justice-related issues (for example, assisting in the identification of different consumption patterns of populations who rely principally on fish and/or wildlife for subsistence).

What We Are Doing:

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT (BLM):

The BLM's National Native American Program Office will coordinate and explore new approaches to the principles of the Indian Self-Determination Act and creative adaptations to Rural Empowerment Zones affecting all rural low-income people.

OFFICE OF SURFACE MINING (OSM):

There are several priority programs ongoing with OSM that address many of the environmental degradation problems. Those programs include: the Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative; the highly successful Abandoned Mine Land Program; TIPS and most recently the public availability of a computer system known as the Applicant Violator System. A description and benefit to members of the affected communities are identified:

The Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program is one of the most successful programs that addresses the adverse effects of past coal mining on the environment. The data base which identifies lands adversely affected by past coal mining and will assist OSM, the States and Tribes on efforts to eliminate or reduce adverse impacts of environmental actions on minority, tribal, or low-income communities and Indian tribal governments and members. Federal grants are disbursed to states and tribes for their use in reclaiming or minimizing the adverse effects of coal mining. Thousands of acres of environmentally degraded lands have been reclaimed to a beneficial and productive use through this program. Emergencies that have been brought to the attention of OSM have either been addressed directly by OSM or by the States or Tribes through the use of funds from this program.

The Technical Information Processing System (TIPS) three-dimensional graphic analysis to pinpoint levels of toxic or acid-producing materials. TIPS is a national computer system used by states and tribes to implement their technical regulatory responsibilities.

The Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative unites State, local and federal government agencies, the Congress, citizens, universities, the coal industry, corporations, and the environmental community to clean up streams polluted by acid mine drainage. An important aspect of this initiative is the involvement of the people who live in the coalfields and the support of corporations, including those in the coal industry. Through their participation, citizens and corporations can help to ensure that government efforts bring about tangible benefits to people and the environment.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE)

The BOEMRE has conducted numerous studies about the potential effects OCS development has on the subsistence life styles of Alaskan Natives. These studies also collect data about fish and wildlife and the potential effects of OCS development on the quality and availability of subsistence resources and patterns of fish and wildlife harvest and consumption. The BOEMRE has also completed a study of Northwest tribes that describes the conditions of Northwest tribal lands, economies, and cultures.

The BOEMRE is planning to conduct a baseline study of social and economic trends in the Gulf of Mexico coastal region from 1930 to the present. Among the many issues to be examined are the impacts of oil industry activities on the health of various groups that reside in the region.

The BOEMRE is cooperating with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) in an effort to gather data on the harvest and consumption of wild food by the inhabitants of 30 Alaska Native villages. The study is scheduled to be completed in March 1995.

BUREAU OF RECLAMATION (BOR):

Reclamation collects data to display and assess human health and environmental-based problems and needs for water treatment and distribution systems. Reclamation is developing and testing photovoltaic and desalting technology to improve water quality on the Navajo Nation.

The Water Treatment Technology Program (test project taking place on the Navajo Reservation) includes:

1. Compiling national treatment needs survey;

2. Identifying small community water treatment systems;

3. Desalting membrane development;

4. Wellhead treatment processes;

5. Encouraging new ideas from small operators;

6. Western water projects;

7. Technology transfer;

8. Supporting emerging water treatment technology; and

9. Detoxifying wastewater treatment processes effluent.

U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE (FWS):

The FWS conducts short-term and some long-term studies and research related to various environmental issues, such as the management of refuges, fisheries, and environmental contaminant issues. Examples of studies that may relate to environmental justice issues are as follows:

1. Region 2 (southwest United States) is planning to conduct economic analyses of possible adverse impacts arising from the designation of critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl and the Rio Grande silvery minnow on minority or low-income communities and populations and Indian tribal governments and their members. These analyses will address rural economies and small-scale farming.

2. Contaminant baseline investigations in the lower Rio Grande valley of Texas are helping to assess impacts to fish and wildlife resources and alert minorities to potential environmental pollution concerns.

3. Region 7 (Alaska) is currently conducting traditional (Alaska Native) knowledge and consumption surveys for polar bear, walrus and sea otter.

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE (NPS):

A socio-economic research project continues providing existing census data to identify those counties adjacent to National Park system units that have substantial minority or low income groups or individuals residing in adjacent areas. Departmental access to census records could be made available by computer or CD-ROM.

BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS (BIA):

The approval process for BIA activities are tightly governed by technical standards and guidelines designed to prevent such harm. As an example, the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Campo solid waste project required design standards that exceeded both Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State of California standards. Also, approval of restricted use pesticides is controlled by EPA regulations and DOI review committees, and the pesticides are applied by certified applicators. Tribes generally have veto power over BIA actions on the reservations.

U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (USGS):

The USGS provides data and information on environmental conditions in all 50 states and the Trust Territories of the United States. Cooperative studies are done with over 1100 local and state agencies that make environmental decisions for their constituencies; those studies include investigations with more than 60 Native American tribes. Some examples of investigations include; through the National Water Quality Assessment Program, evaluation of DDT impacts on fish is an important activity; and through the Mineral Resource Survey Program, geochemical modeling in Colorado down gradient from mineralized and mined areas assessing the impact of trace metals on forage and grazing lands. Through USGS water resource, geologic, and mapping investigations insight on natural and human-affected earth processes is obtained, often leading to innovative solutions to environmental problems.

Because of its non-advocacy role, the USGS is in the process of ensuring that employees are aware of environmental justice issues to be sure that those concerns are not overlooked during program planning.

NATIONAL BIOLOGICAL SERVICE:

The NBS is in the process of developing a program to monitor the effect of contaminants on biota and ecosystems. This program is called Biomonitoring of Environmental Status and Trends (BEST) and when implemented may be able to provide information that would give an analysis of environmental justice issues. Other biological inventory and monitoring activities may show trends in species or ecosystems that relate to potential human impacts.

NBS uses the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), a distributed electronic network linked to DOINET and the Internet for serving and accessing biological information. The NBII is a network of many distributed data bases and technologies, implemented and maintained by a wide range of data owners, working with data managers, technicians, and data providers both inside and outside of the NBS. The NBII will allow users the world over to discover, access, and analyze data, located in files, publications, and computers in federal, state, tribal and local governments and in non-government organizations.

NBS has also initiated research and is gathering biological information pertaining to twelve ecosystems. This information may have some utility in examining community health and safety issues.

BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS:

The BIA's major actions are the result of tribes approaching the Bureau with economic development proposals. These proposals may take the form of waste disposal activities, uranium mining, oil and gas development, gaming facilities or other ground disturbing activities. Research and scientific studies to support these actions are basic requirements of the Bureau.

Goal 3. -- What We Can Do

Strategies on what we can do:

A. The Department will share its environmental justice inventory data collected on the social, economic, and health issues of minorities or low income groups and Indian tribal governments and their members. We will work with representatives of minority and low income-communities, tribal governments, industry, and government to evaluate health, safety, social, and economic impacts related to current and proposed environmental management activities. BLM suggests the establishment of a clearinghouse for information and repository of data and studies related to environmental justice issues. Such a clearinghouse could be cost effective for DOI-wide use. BLM suggests that a state-by-state catalog of relevant reports be published annually. Reclamation suggests examining its Indian Assistance program in some detail to understand better its successes, failures, and needs. The results of the study could be a basis for expanding our entire environmental justice program and become a logical bridge to what should be an expanding concern for social and environmental justice.

Progress Measure: In the implementation plan for February 1995 include a science segment of actions which can be further refined at the proposed Federal science summit on environmental justice.

B. DOI Bureaus and Offices will use the recommendations of the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group Task Force on Research and Health. In addition, we will use and share the broad guidelines and recommendations of the Symposium on Health Research and Needs to Ensure Environmental Justice held in February 1994.

Progress Measurement - Distribution of information will be made by the Department by the end of February 1995.

C. The Department's science organizations will review current customer service plans to assure that minority and low-income populations are engaged in our research processes.

Progress Measurement - The DOI will explore the suggestions cross-referencing the Customer Service Plan, prepared in response to Executive Order 12862, "Setting Customer Service Standards" to the Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations" for similarities.