Front and Centered looked at how race and poverty correspond with toxic pollution sites and how equity is integrated with the Model Toxic Control Act. This including looking at the Toxic Cleanup Program and the Public Participation Grants (PPG’s), a program that awards groups funds to involve communities in the cleanups of sites. We found that:
- Just under half of all toxic sites in Washington State are located in areas that are disproportionately non-white
- Just over half of all toxic sites are located in areas that are disproportionately low-income.
- The prioritization mechanisms used by Ecology when they clean up toxic sites and found that the ranking system that is used is not sufficiently addressing equity.
- The PPG program has a goal of addressing equity but is not often implementing that goal in practice.
- The scoresheet and application for PPG’s do not reflect equity elements in a way that would allow Ecology to prioritize environmental justice considerations.
- Approximately five percent of the grants were going to projects that prioritized environmental justice considerations.
There are some programs that are having an impact on environmental equity.
- The Remedial Action Grant (RAG) program considers “highly impacted communities” and that the RAG’s are going in to areas that are disproportionately people of color and low-income in a way that mirrors the distribution of toxic sites across the state.
- Pollution prevention programs funded by MTCA are important, including Ecology’s Reducing Toxic Threats Program.
Our recommendations are to:
- Fully fund MTCA, including public participation and pollution prevention.
- Significantly increase the award of grant money to projects that incorporate environmental justice.
- Include an equity element within the Washington Ranking Method and to increase funding for the Remedial Action Grant.
- Require programs that receive MTCA funding to conduct an equity analysis.
- Increase outreach to environmental justice communities and provide assistance to groups that may not have the capacity to manage a grant on their own.
- Add equity elements into the PPG application and PPG evaluation scoresheet.
- Create an environmental justice board be created to ensure that environmental justice is adequately considered.