President Clinton Violates His Own Executive Order on "Environmental Justice"

Minority Health Jeopardized by Range of Administration's Environmental Initiatives


For Immediate Release

November 4, 1997

Contact: David Ridenour at (202) 507-6398 or


The health and well-being of thousands of blacks, Hispanics and other disadvantaged Americans will be in greater peril because President Clinton has disregarded his own Executive Order on "Environmental Justice," according to The National Center for Public Policy Research in a just released National Policy Analysis #173 paper.

On February 11, 1994, President Clinton committed his administration to environmental justice by signing Executive Order 12989, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations." The Order directs federal agencies to identify and address "disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their programs, policies and activities on minority populations and low-income populations."

But according to The National Center for Public Policy Research in its just-released paper, "President's Interpretation of 'Environmental Justice' Jeopardizes Minority Health and Well-Being," the President violated that order when he supported the EPA's new air quality standards, again when he came out against the opening of a nuclear waste storage facility near Yucca Mountain in Nevada and yet again when he endorsed strict targets and timetables for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The reason? Each of these policies has huge economic costs and economic costs, no less than environmental ones, have enormous consequences for human health. People use additional income to gain access to health care, improve their nutrition and living conditions and move to safer neighborhoods. By adopting policies that harm the economy and reduce disposable incomes, the President places minority lives at risk.

The Administration's new air standard, says the National Policy Analysis paper, is a good case in point. The paper cites a Reason Public Policy Institute study that found that the new standards would not only cost between $90 and $150 billion per year to implement, but because they would cause severe economic distress on some Americans, would result in up to 27,000 premature deaths per year. Minorities would be particularly hard hit, with blacks making up 23% of all fatalities even though they represent only about 13% of the U.S. population.

"Three years ago, the President signed an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to assess their environmental programs for their impact on minority health. It did not specify that the agencies need only look at environmental influences on human health. It did not specify that economic influences on human health be ignored," said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "The President has consistently violated this Executive Order by embracing an environmental agenda that places minority lives at stake."

The National Policy Analysis also finds that minorities would bear the brunt of the Administration's global warming and nuclear waste policies. For example, the paper notes that under a Clinton-style global warming policy, the poorest fifth of all Americans (a disproportionate number of whom are minorities) would lose up to 10% of their income while the wealthiest fifth would experience income increases of roughly two percent. Minorities would also be hurt by the President's opposition to a new nuclear waste facility in Nevada because a disproportionate number of minorities live in states most dependent on the nuclear power industry.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in Washington, D.C. For interviews, more information, or a copy of "President's Interpretation of 'Environmental Justice' Jeopardizes Minority Health and Well-Being," call David Ridenour at (202) 507-6398 or e-mail him at or visit on the web.


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