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Release Date: 11/08/1999
Contact Information: Amy Miller, EPA Press Office (617-918-1042)

BOSTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a $100,000 environmental justice grant has been awarded to the state of Connecticut to help increase public participation in state environmental decisions and programs.

The money awarded to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection will be used to help prevent discriminatory effects that may result from state environmental regulations. The state's existing Environmental Equity Program will be enhanced by encouraging more meaningful participation from more communities.

This award is one of five State and Tribal Environmental Justice grants worth a total of $500,000 that are being given to states and tribal governments this year nationally.

Using funds from EPA's environmental justice grant, the DEP will select five community organizations to help the state analyze the way the public now is notified about and participates in environmental regulations and processes. This team's work will lead to recommended changes in DEP's programs and policies to allow for greater public participation.

"We have a legal and moral obligation to protect all of our citizens equally," said John P. DeVillars, EPA's New England Administrator. "This grant will help us to do so by giving residents of Connecticut a better understanding of state environmental regulations and a more active voice in the way they are written and implemented."

"Environmental justice is all about involving members of the community in decisions that affect them," said James Younger, director of EPA-New England's office of civil rights and urban affairs, who announced the grant during an event today in New Haven. "This grant will make a significant difference to the people of Connecticut and serve as a national model for public participation."

Grassroots neighborhood organizations are a key ingredient in ensuring all of Connecticut's residents have meaningful participation in the protection of their environment," said Jane K. Stahl, deputy commissioner of the DEP, who accepted the grant for the state. "This grant will allow the DEP to work with community leaders and organizations to improve the existing public participation process and to prevent the potential for discriminatory effects from our regulatory programs."

"Many neighborhood organizations have expressed the desire to understand the permitting process and to be better informed when environmental activities are proposed in their communities," added Edith Pestana, administrator of DEP's Environmental Equity Program. "This project will give community leaders and organizations the opportunity to enhance their ability to provide meaningful participation and to improve public access."

Local and state officials will train the community groups on existing DEP siting, public notification and public participation procedures so the organizations can hold discussions with their constituents on how DEP processes could be improved to meet their needs better. The results of these discussions will be used to develop a Model Multicultural Public Participation Plan. This plan will serve as a training tool for DEP's regulatory staff.

The environmental justice grants, first given out in 1998, are meant to help ensure equal environmental protection, and the equal enforcement of protective environmental laws, rules, regulations, and policies for all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, culture, or income.

EPA also announced this week that South End Neighborhood Revitalization, a community group in Waterbury, is one of the nine community groups in New England awarded a total of $145,000 in environmental justice small grants. The Waterbury group received $15,000 for a project called, Business /Community Stakeholder Partnership for Economic Development," that will help the South End community conduct environmental health assessments and prepare the area for greater community investments, which will help revitalize the neighborhood.