Cumulative Impacts of Pollution

Illustration - pollution in the city. Image credit: Artisticco / Shutterstock

What is Environmental Justice?

Every community in the state of Maryland deserves to have their health and environmental safety treated with equity and integrity of dedication and concern.

Environmental Justice (EJ) refers to the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, gender, or income when developing, implementing, and enforcing environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Communities are inundated and overburdened with the effects of several industrial facilities polluting within a small geographic area, further adding to prevailing blight.

State Legislation and EJ

In March 2001, Governor Glendening created the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities (CEJSC) by executive order, that became a law in 2003.

The CEJSC tasked with alleviating EJ issues in communities directs state agencies to identify and address the disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects within low-income and minority communities to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law.

The Commission is made up of 15 members, and is authorized to facilitate environmentally safe and sustainable communities for all Maryland residents. But until now, the Commission has not established a process or mechanism for assisting environmentally struggling and stressed communities, in the state. These communities continue to be the target of large pollution industrial facilities, making their situation worse.

Delaware created the Community Involvement Advisory Council, a community-based penalty fund for environmental violations within communities. Rhode Island mandates that effects on EJ communities are considered before remediation plans are approved within the communities. Maryland legislators should follow the lead of their regional partners.

The Need for Cumulative Impacts Assessment Review Process (CIARP)

CIARP is a bill that would place certain requirements on the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) as part of a permit review process designed to examine human health impacts that might otherwise not be assessed. This would limit and/or stop the amount of permits issued to harmful industrial companies and their use of toxic products that pollute communities.

MDE would be required to go through a permit determination process to ensure that the health and wellbeing of communities and the environment are put first.

As part of CIARP, the Department shall obtain relevant and up-to-date data relating to the people of the community, including the populations at risk, health status, and whether the proposed project would benefit or inhibit the public’s health and/or the environment.

It is time for Maryland to follow in other state’s footsteps to ensure the health of all people in the state is top priority, and that Environmental Justice is strengthened and implemented to provide health to the people and to the environment in which they live in.