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March 9, 2021 by Karen Sokol, Robert Verchick

U.N. Human Rights Experts Call Out Environmental Racism in Louisiana's 'Cancer Alley'

In the United States, many people think the world's worst human rights abuses take place elsewhere. Unless you are among those in the United States who are subjected to such mistreatment.

On March 2, human rights experts called the world's attention to some of the most egregious and systematic human rights violations perpetuated here in the United States — and in particular in our neck of the woods in southeast Louisiana. International human rights experts condemned long-standing environmental racism in "Cancer Alley" — a heavily industrialized and polluted corridor along the Lower Mississippi River — and said it must end.

In a statement, the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner summarized the experts' findings condemning the U.S. government's targeting of the residents of the region, most of whom are Black, for the siting of toxic polluting oil, gas, and chemical facilities. Plans to further develop the corridor's infamous "petrochemical complex" would further poison air and water and put Black people at even greater risk of cancer, lung disease, and other health problems, the office said in a statement.

"This form of environmental racism poses serious and disproportionate threats to the enjoyment of several human rights of its largely African …

Feb. 24, 2021 by Robert Verchick
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Since I began serving on Louisiana’s Climate Initiatives Task Force, charged with finding a way to zero out net greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, there is one question I get from people more than any other: “C’mon, are you serious?”

It’s not that Louisianans don’t see the need. Sea-level rise could soon swallow our coast, and hurricanes souped up by climate change are now the new normal.

The problem is how we see ourselves. Louisiana, I’m reminded, is an oil-and-gas state. Whatever were we thinking?

My quick response is Louisiana is really an energy state, with more sun and offshore wind than most of our peers.

My longer answer is that I really don’t know how serious we are. But I’ve started following a trio of issues that could tip the scale …

Jan. 14, 2021 by Michele Janin, Robert Verchick
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Over the last six months, we had the honor of leading the search for a visionary new leader to guide our organization. Our search is over, and we're thrilled to announce that Minor Sinclair will be taking CPR's helm next month.

Sinclair is a dynamic leader with a commitment to the progressive values CPR has fought for over the last two decades: justice, equity, public health, safety, and environmental sustainability. He is uniquely qualified to guide our organization through this moment of social and political change.

A tireless advocate for justice, Sinclair has dedicated his career to supporting the rights of low-income and vulnerable communities. He also has management and fundraising experience, an ability to bring people together around progressive change, and an ambitious vision for CPR as it enters its third decade.

After earning a bachelor's degree in international development from Davidson College, Sinclair began his …

Dec. 17, 2020 by Robert Verchick
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UPDATE: The Senate confirmed Brenda Mallory as Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality on April 14, 2021.

President-elect Joe Biden is set to name Brenda Mallory to lead the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the White House office that coordinates environmental policy across federal agencies. Mallory has more than three decades of environmental law and policy experience, served as CEQ general counsel under President Barack Obama, and is currently director of regulatory policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Though somewhat dormant during Donald Trump's early tenure, CEQ ramped up its attacks on environmental policies and protections during the second half of Trump’s term.

It focused its assault on how agencies review the environmental impacts of their actions. Congress required such environmental review beginning in 1970 with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Whenever an agency funds or issues a permit for a big project …

Sept. 25, 2020 by Robert Verchick
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Grappling with a contentious dispute over cross-state air pollution, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority in Environmental Protection Agency v. EME Homer City Generation, first consulted the King James Bible. “‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth,’ she wrote, “In crafting a solution to the problem of interstate air pollution, regulators must account for the vagaries of the wind.”

It was 2014, and at stake was a complicated, science-driven plan crafted by the EPA to limit air pollution that wafts from one state to endanger communities in another. The plan, which budgeted air emissions in certain states, promised to save thousands of lives and bring cleaner air to poor and minority neighborhoods. But in so doing, it would force several aging coal plants to close. Industry cried foul, saying …

June 1, 2020 by Matt Shudtz, David Flores, Matthew Freeman, James Goodwin, Brian Gumm, Catherine Jones, Darya Minovi, Katlyn Schmitt, Katie Tracy, Robert Verchick, Robert Glicksman, Alice Kaswan, Thomas McGarity, Joel Mintz, Sidney Shapiro, Amy Sinden
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Staff and Board members of the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) denounce the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day. We stand with the peaceful protestors calling for radical, systemic reforms to root out racism from our society and all levels of our governing institutions and the policies they administer.

CPR Member Scholars and staff are dedicated to listening to and working alongside Black communities and non-Black people of color to call out racism and injustice and demand immediate and long-lasting change. Racism and bigotry cannot continue in the United States if our nation is to live up to its creed of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

CPR's vision is thriving communities and a resilient planet. That ideal animates all of our work, but systemic sources of inequality and injustice stand as massive barriers to the realization …

April 30, 2020 by Robert Verchick
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No one really expected FEMA’s leadership of the coronavirus response to be inspiring or even, to put it bluntly, moderately competent. Still, I’ve been puzzled by several reports from state leaders and others that federal authorities have been confiscating purchased medical supplies without explanation or, at least in one case, compensation.

I don’t mean situations where a federal agency outbids someone or orders a vendor to sell to the federal government instead. That happens, too, and the practice is controversial. I’m talking about instances in which federal officials show up unannounced at a warehouse or a port and physically seize crates of medical gear that had been on their way to some needy hospital or test center that had paid or agreed to pay for them. The agent flashes a badge, the goods are trucked out, and no one knows where they go …

Jan. 22, 2020 by Katie Tracy, Robert Verchick
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​It's no secret that President Trump has harassed staff at federal agencies since his first moment in office. Days after his inauguration, he blocked scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from talking to the press and the public. He famously cracked down on federal labor unions and chiseled early retirees of their expected pension benefits. Now he's requiring hundreds of staff from USDA's Economic Research Service and the Bureau of Land Management to leave their homes in the Washington area and move to offices out West or risk losing their jobs.

The administration has been particularly disdainful of the professional staff at the EPA – the people who work every day to make sure you can take a dip in the lake, fill your lungs on a morning walk, or drink from the tap without some nagging fear of …

May 7, 2019 by Robert Verchick
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Pop quiz: What do marshes, pipelines, forests, and underground parking structures have in common?

The answer is they are all infrastructure – part of the "underlying foundation," as my dictionary puts it, "on which the continuance and growth of a community depend." A lot of that foundation, like pipelines and parking structures, is artificial. But most of the goods and services we rely on come from the natural environment, itself, like clean water, breathable air, and a stable climate.

Ideally, both kinds of infrastructure – gray and green – would work together to provide the food, transport, and energy we need. But the story of gray and green infrastructure is often one of conflict. In the Upper Midwest, oil pipelines tear through important forest habitat and spoil wetlands that filter water and are vital to the ecosystem. In Houston, six-lane highways have covered grasslands that used to slow …

Oct. 2, 2018 by Sidney Shapiro, Robert Verchick
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Originally published in The Regulatory Review as part of a series on social justice and the green economy. Reprinted with permission.

The reactions to our article, Inequality, Social Resilience, and the Green Economy, have a clear message: We, environmentalists, have our work cut out for us.

We wrote our article to start an overdue conversation about environmental policy and social and economic well-being, and we thank our commentators for joining us in starting this conservation. In response, we would note that, although protecting the environment and achieving justice has never been easy, the United States has made progress over time. We are persuaded, despite the caveats our commentators have identified, that the country can do so again.

Michael P. Vandenbergh warns of the political danger of tying the environmental agenda to social well-being in our current political state, and we agree with this warning for all of …

CPR HOMEPAGE
More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
March 9, 2021

U.N. Human Rights Experts Call Out Environmental Racism in Louisiana's 'Cancer Alley'

Feb. 24, 2021

Baton Rouge Advocate Op-ed: Louisiana Should Get Serious About Its Climate Crisis

Jan. 14, 2021

CPR Welcomes New Executive Director Minor Sinclair

Dec. 17, 2020

Biden Plans to Pick Brenda Mallory to Lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Here's What She Can Do to Boost Public Protections.

Sept. 25, 2020

CPR Reflects on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Legacy

June 1, 2020

CPR Will Stand with Those Who Cannot Breathe

April 30, 2020

Did FEMA Take Your Mask?