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Environmental Justice Primer for Ports Appendix: Timeline of American Environmental Justice Movement

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The timeline below includes landmark legislation and milestones related to the growth of the environmental justice movement:

Year Environmental Justice Legislation and Policy Environmental Justice Events
1964 Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI of the Act prohibits recipients of federal funds from using those funds to discriminate on the basis of race, color and national origin.  
1969 Congress passes NEPA. The California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation files a suit on behalf of six migrant farm workers, resulting in a ban on the use of the pesticide DDT.
1970s EPA created (1970).

Congress passes the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, RCRA and the Toxic Substances Control Act.
1971 The White House Council on Environmental Quality acknowledges racial discrimination that adversely affects the urban poor and local quality of life.  
1979   First civil rights suit – Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management Inc. – filed, challenging the siting of a waste facility in Houston.

People for Community Recovery, a community-based environmental justice organization, is established on the south side of Chicago.
1980 Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund) and the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The Southwest Organizing Project is established in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Environmental Health Coalition is established in San Diego, California.
1982   A massive protest organized against the state government for its decision to site a hazardous waste landfill near an African American community in Warren County, North Carolina. Considered a landmark event in the emergence of the environmental justice movement, it brought national attention to the issues of environmental racism and environmental inequity.
1987   The United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice publishes its Toxic Waste and Race in the United States report, which identifies race as the most statistically significant indicator of where hazardous waste sites are located.
1988-1990   West Harlem Environmental Action (We ACT, aka We ACT for Environmental Justice) is established in New York City (1988).

Grassroots environmental justice leaders send letter to “Green Group” leaders accusing them of environmental racism, as reflected in the lack of racial diversity in their staffing, boards of directors, and policy advocacy positions (1988 and 1990).
1990s Congress passes significant amendments to the Clean Air Act. Dr. Robert Bullard’s book Dumping in Dixie is published (1990). The Indigenous Environmental Network, the Southwest Network for Economic and Environmental Justice, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Northeast Environmental Justice Network and the National Black Environmental Justice Network are established.

Environmental Justice Research and Advocacy Centers are established at Xavier University in New Orleans, Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, and Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.
1991   The first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit takes place in Washington, D.C. Summit delegates draft Principles of Environmental Justice and vote to accept them.
1992   The U.S.-based environmental justice movement reaches the global stage. Three environmental justice leaders – Dianne Dillion Ridgley, Don Edwards and Michael Dorsey – serve as members of the official U.S. delegation and another eight U.S. environmental justice leaders attend as official delegates to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Dr. Robert Bullard and Reverend Benjamin Chavis selected as first-ever environmental justice representatives on a presidential transition team (for then-President-elect Clinton).
1994 President Clinton signs Executive Order 12898 – Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority and Low-Income Populations. See Section 7.1 for more information.

The Washington Office on Environmental Justice (WOEJ) opens in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to advance the policy interests of the grassroots environmental justice movement in the federal and national environmental policy debate.
Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice is established in Detroit, Michigan.
1996   The Labor Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles and their Bus Riders Union campaign successfully sue the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the funding of its intra-city surface bus system.
1999-2000   The Ford Foundation establishes its first-ever environmental justice grant-making portfolio in its Assets and Community Building program (1999). The Foundation hires its first Environmental Justice Program Officer to direct this portfolio (2000).

Environmental Justice Center established at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment (2000). It offers the only Ph.D., Masters and Bachelor of Arts degrees in environmental justice in the nation.

Executive Order 13175: Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments  passed in 2000 by President Clinton.
2011   Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJIWG) adopts a Charter and signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Environmental Justice and implementing Executive Order 12898. The MOU served as a formal agreement among Federal agencies to recommit to addressing environmental justice through a more collaborative, comprehensive and efficient process.  It also broadened the EJ IWG to include additional agencies and articulates additional commitments made by member agencies.
2014   EJIWG Charter is updated to focus on public participation, regional engagement, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Environmental Policy Act, Native Americans/Indigenous Peoples, engagement of rural communities, impacts from climate change, impacts from commercial transportation (goods movement), and strategy and implementation progress reports.
2014   National Environmental Justice Advisory Council to EPA releases 20-year retrospective report that documented the Council’s work since its inception. NEJAC provided a crucial forum for discussion and elevation of environmental justice issues, served as a national convening place, evaluated environmental justice issues, and provided advice and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on environmental justice issues. 

EPA releases its EJ 2020 Action Agenda, a strategic plan for FY’2016-2020. The plan outlined EPA’s vision, goals, strategies and actions related to environmental justice over this period.

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