Biden administration promises focus on environmental justice

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This Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 photo shows Latoya Gipson’s house on Perry County Road 1 in Uniontown, Ala. Disadvantaged communities in America are disproportionately affected by pollution from industry or waste disposal, but their complaints have few outlets and often reach a dead end. Hundreds of discrimination claims sent to the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil rights office since the mid-90s have only once resulted in a formal finding of discrimination. And some cases languished for years — or decades.(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

When President Joe Biden made environmental protection a key element of his campaign, one of his promises was to overhaul a small federal office.

It’s the part of the Environmental Protection Agency that investigates when people in minority communities believe they have been unfairly harmed by industrial pollution or waste disposal. The EPA’s civil rights office has received hundreds of such complaints since the mid-1990s but has only once made a formal finding of discrimination.

The situation has provoked criticism from  the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the EPA’s own Office of Inspector General and citizens who have filed complaints that sometimes languished for years — or decades.

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