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The City Project’s Robert Garcia Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice Community Spotlight Series

RG at EJ IWG Community Spotlight Series
Photo by Carlton Eley / U.S. EPA Office of Environmental Justice

The City Project’s Robert García was the featured speaker at the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG)’s Community Spotlight series on July 28 in Washington, D.C.

EJ IWG facilitates the active involvement of all Federal agencies to implement the President’s Executive Order 12898 on environmental justice and health. EJ IWG is chaired by the EPA Administrator and includes 17 Federal agencies and White House offices.

The City Project discussed green access as a compelling civil rights and environmental justice issue, and described a 5-point planning process to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 12898 by federal agencies and recipients of federal funding. EJ IWG must provide leadership to ensure federal agencies enforce Title VI and its regulations, which prohibit intentional discrimination and unjustified discriminatory impacts on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs by recipients of federal funding.

The City Project highlighted the values at stake in access to parks and green space, and identified best practice examples to address environmental justice, green access, and health. These include the National Park Service (NPS) final study to expand the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the NPS final study for the San Gabriel Mountains, and the US Army Corps of Engineers final study to revitalize the Los Angeles River.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides another best practice example of using civil rights and environmental justice tools for healthy green land use. HUD withheld federal funding for a proposed warehouse project on the site that is now Los Angeles State Historic Park unless there was a full environmental review that considered the impact on low income people and people of color and the park alternative. HUD cited Executive Order 12898 and Title VI in reaching its decision.

The IWG EJ and EPA have a critical role to play to alleviate disparities in green access and health based on race, color, national origin, and income. In that spirit, The City Project was thrilled to see park data included in the updated version of EPA’s online screening and mapping tool, EJSCREEN. The added layer of parks and green space can be used to help develop standards to measure progress, equity, and compliance, and to hold public officials accountable.

The City Project is grateful to EJ IWG for the invitation to participate in its Community Spotlight series. We look forward to continuing to work together to achieve equal justice, democracy, and livability for all.