May 28, 1999

Hispanic Caucus Participates in "Environmental Justice For All" National Symposium

Washington, D.C. — Today, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), along with Reps. Xavier Becerra, Ciro Rodriguez and Nydia Velazquez participated in the "Environmental Justice For All" national symposium. The all day event, organized by the Environmental Justice Working Group, a coalition of Hispanic, Black and Progressive Caucus members, addresses the importance of social equity in the discussion of environmental concerns and preservation issues.

CHC members were present at the Symposium to highlight specific environmental problems their districts have been facing. "The Latino community has traditionally been excluded from the discussion and decision making process on environmental justice issues. However, communities like the ones may CHC members represent have fought for years to protect where they live from environmental degradation. Today's symposium will teach others what Latino and low-income communities already know about fighting for environmental justice —it is a lonely struggle fought by the most vulnerable groups of our society," said CHC Chair Roybal-Allard.

The issue of environmental justice arises from the concern that low-income communities often are exposed to greater environmental risk than the general population. Consequently, these communities suffer a disproportionate share of the health risks associated with high levels of noise and air pollution and water contamination linked to these dump sites. These risks, in combination with other social inequities, such as high poverty rates, deteriorating housing and infrastructure and inaccessible medical services make environmental justice a priority for the Latino community.

"Poor and minority communities have been at the forefront of the fight for environmental justice for generations but their cries for help have fallen on deaf ears," stated Rep. Roybal-Allard. "Now that environmental problems are growing beyond the confines of low-income neighborhoods does the issue of environmental justice move from a regional matter to a national concern. The health and future of our children is at stake, that should have made this a national concern long ago," concluded the CHC Chair.

The Symposium covered topics such as: communities fighting for environmental justice, economic development and the environment, legal tools to achieve environmental justice. The final panel entitled, "Where do we go from here?" allowed Members to discuss solutions and methods to further empower low-income and minority communities to fight pollution and congestion.

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