Toxics Release Inventory: A Major Building Block for Environmental Justice Communities

Over one hundred community leaders, students, academicians, non-profit organizations, and government officials participated in the EPA, Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Regional Workshop held at the Sheraton Galleria in Houston, Texas January 30th and 31st, 2015. Forty one  of the community leaders and students took a charter bus from Louisiana to attend the workshop. The regional workshop was hosted by the Texas Southern University Barbara Jordan/Mickey Leland (TSU/BJML) School of Public Affairs and the Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DU/DSCEJ).  The workshop exceeded its goal of reaching a diverse audience of African Americans, Latino, Native Americans and vulnerable communities participating in the workshop.

 

Among the diverse group of presenters were 2011 Goldman Environmental Award Winner, Hilton Kelley, executive director of Community In-Power and Development Association, Inc. of Port Arthur, TX, 2009, Heinz Award Winner Dr. Beverly Wright, executive director of DUSCEJ, the Father of the Environmental Justice Movement, Dr. Robert Bullard, Dean of the TSU/BJML School of Public Affairs,  Shelley Fudge, EPA Office of Environmental Information, Dr. Mort Wakeland, EPA Region 6 TRI Coordinator, Wilma Subra of Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), Angel Torres, Geographic Information Systems Consultant, Monique Harden, co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, and TSU graduate students Subrity Rajbhandari and Steven Washington (click presentation title to download Powerpoint presentations).

 

Toxic Threat in Port Communities: A TRI Narrative of Minority Communities -Angel O. Torres
Toxics Release Inventory: A Major Building Block of the Environmental Justice Movement -Dr. Beverly Wright 
Community Reporting on TRI & Toxic Exposures: An Overlooked Tool in Defending Human Rights -Monique Harden
Reliable Community Based Environmental Information Through TRI Enforcement -Mort Wakeland
TRI as a Tool: Mapping Environmental Injustice and Then Doing Something About It -Robert D. Bullard, Ph.D.
Introduction to TRI for Environmental Justice Communities -Shelley Fudge
Using TRI as a Tool for Developing Community Capacity -Steven C. Washington
Exploring the association between TRI Facilities, Socioeconomic characteristic and Land Use in Harris County, Texas -Subrity Rajbhandari
Using TRI Dioxin Congener Data to Identify Sources of Human Exposure -Dr. Wilma Subra

 

Mr. Hilton Kelley kicked off the workshop on Friday evening with his inspirational story of leadership and resilience in the Port Arthur, TX community. He discussed the health challenges of residents being exposed to numerous chemical releases from six major chemical plants. He explained that there is no comprehensive emergency plan - no siren when there is a major emission event and no fenceline monitoring. Mr. Kelley hopes that the TRI data and other available tools can help his community advocate for new policies like fenceline monitoring and a comprehensive emergency plan. Dr. Beverly Wright started day two with an overview of the environmental justice movement and how TRI on-site and transfer release data in Convent, Louisiana and NORCO, Louisiana (Old Diamond Plantation) served as a major building block to prevent a Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plant from moving into Convent, LA and the TRI data also helped the Old Diamond Plantation residents prove their case of disproportionate exposure to emissions in their fight for relocation. Shelley Fudge from the EPA discussed TRI data benefits and limitations and Dr. Mort Wakeland discussed reliable resources communities can use as it relates to EPA TRI enforcement. Keynote luncheon speaker, Dr. Robert Bullard shared with workshop participants the importance of mapping vulnerable communities to raise awareness of the disproportionate effect of pollution on people of color. African Americans in 19, states are more than twice as likely as whites to live in neighborhoods with high pollution levels. There is a similar pattern for other people of color: Hispanics in 12 states and Asians in 7 states. "As we strive to build healthy and resilient communities, we must address equitable development. Addressing equity issues is a prerequisite to achieving sustainable and livable communities."

Workshop participants commented how the workshop equipped them to move forward with educating other residents and advocating for their community. One workshop participate wrote, "The workshop was very informative, an excellent environment of community empowerment on information in regards to personal community and environmental heath. Great information on TRI as well as the fellowship of sharing ideas." The DUDSCEJ looks forward to continuing to educate communities through the Environmental Protection Agency TRI Cooperative Agreement. As a part of the project cooperative agreement, the DUDSCEJ and EPA hosts quarterly TRI webinars. The next TRI webinar will be Wednesday, March 4th at 11:00 am central. To register, please go to the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice website at www.dscej.org and click on TRI Webinars. For more information, contact Mary I. Williams at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 504-816-4028.