Crag has partnered with three organizations in California to file a federal lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency and Administrator Lisa P. Jackson for their failure to enforce and uphold Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Crag filed the environmental justice case on behalf of Padres Hacie Una Vida Mejor and El Pueblo El Aire Y Agua Limpio, groups representing low-income Latino communities near Kettleman City and Buttonwillow, California. Crag is working on the case with the Center for Race Poverty and the Environment, which is serving as lead counsel.
The communities of Padres and El Pueblo play host to the only three hazardous waste dumps in the entire State of California. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, signed by President Johnson in 1963, prohibits any recipient of federal funding from discriminating on the basis of race or national origin. EPA distributed funds to state agencies that issued permits for these three hazardous waste facilities.
In 1994, Padres and El Pueblo filed an administrative complaint with EPA under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. At that time, the state Department of Toxic Substances Control had used EPA funding to issue permits for the construction and expansion of the toxic dumps.
Since 1994, EPA has failed to respond to the Title VI complaint, letting the allegations languish inside the agency’s co-called “Office of Civil Rights.” Although it was required to issue a preliminary report within 180 days of accepting the case for investigation, EPA has now sat on the complaint for more than 15 years without any resolution to these civil rights violations.
The recent complaint follows up on Crag’s 2009 victory in the case of Rosemere Neighborhood Association v. EPA. In that case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed a similar situation involving years and years of illegal delay in EPA’s processing of civil rights complaints. At that time, the Ninth Circuit noted the “consistent pattern of delay by the EPA” and stated that the delays “appear, sadly and unfortunately, typical of those who appeal to [EPA] to remedy civil rights violations.”
Crag looks forward to working on behalf of Padres and El Pueblo in prosecuting this important environmental justice case. Their communities have struggled with these issues for many years, and we hope to be able to serve their interests along with the Center for Race Poverty and the Environment.