Chesapeake Bay Foundation Embraces Social Justice Advocacy


I have long respected the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for its role as an advocate for the Chesapeake Bay. It has always stuck close to its nonpartisan, non-ideological mission, and it has enjoyed a high degree of credibility across the political spectrum. Until now.

Last week, the CFB issued a statement supporting the Environmental Justice for All Act, sponsored by Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Virginia, and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona,¬†which would “protect minority and low-income communities that disproportionately suffer health risks from pollution.”

Said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Federal Executive Director Jason Rano:

Everyone has a right to clean water and air, no matter who you are or where you live. Congressmen McEachin and Grijalva are taking important steps towards meaningful action on environmental justice. This will protect our most vulnerable communities from pollution and ensure healthier local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

The CFB has taken a huge step from science-driven environmental advocacy to ideologically-driven social-justice advocacy. Huge mistake. Disastrous mistake.¬† McEachin’s proposed legislation is riddled with questionable leftist suppositions. With this endorsement, the CFB has squandered its credibility with half the population. What a shame.

— JAB

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16 responses to “Chesapeake Bay Foundation Embraces Social Justice Advocacy

  1. Much ado about nothing. I read the proposed legislation. Where’s the beef? Feel good virtue signaling but nothing to get frantic over.

    • Additional fodder and levers for lawyers, mainly, which is CBF’s interest probably. Heaven forbid any infrastructure projects create jobs, tax revenue or any other tangible benefits for these victims.

  2. Seeking justice in government or society is not necessarily a leftist issue. Libertarian philosopher, John Rawls posited that society should be structured so that the greatest possible amount of liberty is given to its members, limited only by the notion that the liberty of any one member shall not infringe upon that of any other member. When crony politics and money provide for environmental injustice, whether by left or right politicians, it is appropriate for organizations protecting the environment to stand for justice. In recent discussions of Dominion Energy’s manipulation of VA regulatory agencies and their submission of bogus data provided to the SCC, we have seen the need for voters and organizations to stand for environmental justice. When did justice become a bad word for conservatives or libertarians?

  3. Justice is not a “bad word” but selective or preferential justice should concern us all. Why should an Indian Tribe get preference over a suburban house-mom in the dispensing of environmental protections? Take a look at what is proposed, here.

  4. Note the dates :

    ” Final DOT Environmental Justice Order
    On May 2, 2012, U.S. DOT issued the Final DOT Environmental Justice Order, which is an update to U.S. DOT’s original Environmental Justice Order (Departmental Order 5610.2(a) – Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations), which was published on April 15, 1997. The Order continues to be a key component of U.S. DOT’s strategy to promote the principles of Environmental Justice in all Departmental programs, policies, and activities.

    Guidance on Environmental Justice and NEPA
    On December 16, 2011, FHWA issued a memo titled Guidance on Environmental Justice and NEPA. This guidance describes the process to address Environmental Justice during the NEPA review, including documentation requirements. It supplements the FHWA Technical Advisory 6640.8A, which provides guidance for documenting the potential social, economic, and environmental impacts considered in the selection and implementation of highway projects.”

  5. Good point, Acbar. But Virginia and Federal regulations call out the practice of placement of potentially negative environmental impacting installations in poor, and minority communities which have had historically less resources and less voice to represent themselves against the well heeled corporations in their seeking to use their lands for routing of fossil fuel industrial infrastructure. Suburban residents have the protection of specific zoning regulations and often the considerable resources of their better economic situation and the assistance of their town or city establishment and local governments in fighting such infrastructure placements. The existing regulations call for additional comprehensive impact studies where an economically disadvantaged or minority community is involved. Last year, Dominion was able to get an air permit for the proposed ACP Buckingham compressor station by submitting bogus data on the minority Union Hill community claiming that it was mostly white. Under recent questioning by a federal appeals court, and with an expert house-to-house factual survey belying their claim, the Dominion lawyer representing that claim finally admitted to the judge that the community was actually 85% African American. There remains a struggle for fact-based environmental justice in our government.

  6. So screw black and hispanic people? I miss your point?

  7. I’m not arguing the merits of the social justice approach to environmental issues in this post. (I’m sure there will be other posts where we can revisit the issues.) I am merely pointing out that endorsing social justice goals represents a big shift for Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

    “The CFB has taken a huge step from science-driven environmental advocacy to ideologically-driven social-justice advocacy. “

    That shift will have political consequences.

  8. Agreed, JAbbate — harming those less equipped to fight development simply because the applicant can get away with it is certainly not right — nor should we defend lying by corporate bullies. You use the phrase “fact-based environmental justice” and that, with emphasis on ‘fact-based,’ sounds right to me.

    But, everyone needs that, equally applied. Give help navigating the process to those with less familiarity with it, yes; but just because the suburban guy with more disposable income and government connections starts out with a process advantage when dealing with complex issues before EPA and DEQ does not, in my opinion, justify either of those agencies tilting the end result as some sort of special affirmative-action-style compensatory treatment for minority communities contingent upon their remaining special-treatment-worthy. All that does is tend to grandfather or lock into place a land use pattern that may be counterproductive to the jurisdiction as a whole, as well as to individual residents in the affected community who want to cash out and leave it.

    • People with less money can have a hard time hiring attorneys, engineers and consultants. But they do have, like everyone else, local officials and state and federal representatives. If one has good arguments and facts, these people can and should make a difference. But living in a low-income community does not automatically make your arguments and facts good.

      There are a lot of volunteer entities that often help low-income communities. And many of the latter don’t help a working or middle class neighborhood. In some ways, a lower-income neighborhood can, sometimes, get better and more assistance than a middle class community.

      Everyone deserves due process and equal application of the laws and not special treatment. And that often requires a little “Profiles in Courage”-consistent behavior by many, whether the affected community is wealthy or poor. I and others I know have been on the opposing side to requests by higher-income neighborhoods for special treatment that was not consistent with the rules and regulations. I’d take the same stance for a request for special treatment by a lower-income community.

  9. In terms of what is “equal”. People with high education and income levels are much better equipped to fight projects that adversely affect them – to the point where they can push the project onto a less vociferous place.

    Typically – whether it is a private sector or a government project – they will assess the potential for EFFECTIVE opposition and move forward on that basis.

    That’s the reason the environmental justice law was passed.

    I’m not sure how you judge “equal” when it boils down to the ability of the would-be opposition and the proponents decide which opponent will be easier to overcome.

    You need to look no further than the I-95 path through Richmond to see what I mean. It sliced right through a much less affluent area of Richmond – just cut neighborhoods in half.

    Again – I’m not sure how you decide “equal” in these kinds of situations but clearly I’m not alone – laws were passed – majority support on Environmental Justice not recently – but decades ago.

  10. re: ” … just because the suburban guy with more disposable income and government connections starts out with a process advantage when dealing with complex issues before EPA and DEQ does not, in my opinion, justify either of those agencies tilting the end result as some sort of special affirmative-action-style”

    If the NET RESULT is that low income/minority communities receive the majority of adverse impacts – as opposed to those impacts being evenly distributed across all communities rich and more – then how would you deal with the equity issue?

    The reality is that people with higher incomes and higher levels of education can fend off these projects and in effect push them into communities that have less resources and at less “equal” in their ability to fend off their “fair share” of adverse projects.

    When the data shows they are, in fact, impacted at a higher rate – is that, in fact, an unequal outcome AND the implication that it’s their fault they were not as effective in fending off adverse projects?

    What do you DO when the historical evidence is an unequal impact, just say that you cannot affect the front-end process?

  11. So when the process itself leads to disparate impacts – is it wrong to fix the process?

  12. Environmental injustice in the past meant putting dirty technologies with no pollition controls in a poor area and just letting them be exposed to the pollution.

    Today it means even with top notch pollution control and zero pollution almost we cannot put anything anywhere, because some liberal thinks a single renegade molecule is deadly.

    • If it is zero pollution then why can’t it not go anywhere including high income communities?

      The reality is – that it’s NOT zero pollution, it’s LESS pollution but if you site all the less polluting plants in lower income communities, it’s actually still a disparate impact.

      As I posted up-thread, Environmental Justice – as a government concept appeared PRIOR to 2000 – in 1997 and earlier and it apparently was a bi-partisan idea.

      The Dems should not be in the position of fighting projects in low-income communities – if we truly have a process where such sites are located equally and affect all communities.

      Blaming liberals for defending these communities when the projects are largely still sited in those communities and not in other communities means there still is a discriminatory process AND we’re defending it by attacking the liberals.

      In other words, because they now have LESS pollution than before – it’s okay to site them in lower-income communities??? That’s not “equal”.

  13. The goal of any process ought to be to treat ALL communities the same – without regard to how much pollution is generated – even if there is less than before – it STILL should be allocated on an equal basis.

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