Down the Bay & Orange Grove EJ Petitions Delivered to US Army Corps of Engineers

MEJAC delivered a petition with 101 local citizen signatures requesting the US Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District to adhere to the environmental justice consultation process it has publicly promised would happen with the Down the Bay and Orange Grove communities during its Mobile Harbor GRR process of considering the impacts of enlarging the Mobile Harbor ship channel to expand Port of Mobile commerce.

We still haven’t received a reply to any part of the letter MEJAC sent in early April 2018 formally requesting a response to these and other concerns. But come to think of it, we never received a formal response regarding the first letter we sent back in February 2016 about their process.

The petition we sent today reads:

Col. James A. DeLapp
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District
109 Saint Joseph Street
Mobile, Alabama 36602

Dear Col. DeLapp,

We are very concerned about the sincerity of the Corps’ adherence to its mission of responding to environmental justice concerns from residents who are directly affected by federal infrastructure projects.

For over two years, the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition has been raising alarm bells about the Corps’ Draft General Reevaluation Review process in studying and responding to the environmental justice impacts Mobile Harbor Ship Channel enlargement and the corresponding increase in Port of Mobile traffic by sea, rail, and road.

Now, with just a couple of months left before the Draft GRR is published, some communities of environmental justice concern like Orange Grove and Down the Bay have yet to be engaged directly despite promises from the Corps that EJ Focus Groups would be convened to capture any potential concerns from their residents about the Corps’ Tentatively Selected Plan to depend and widen the Ship Channel to allow an increase in Port traffic.

It would be extremely disappointing to know that our Mobile District office is disinterested in directly engaging with communities who have borne some of the greatest burdens of the Mobile District’s past decisions in the Port infrastructure area.

The National Environmental Policy Act process requires federal agencies to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. Using NEPA, federal agencies evaluate the environmental and related social and economic effects of their proposed actions. Agencies also provide opportunities for public review and comment on those evaluations.

Executive Order 12898 was published in 59 FR 7629 on February 16, 1994 to “address environmental justice in minority populations and low-income populations”. As the EPA has made abundantly clear, the order directs federal agencies “to develop a strategy for implementing environmental justice. The order is also intended to promote nondiscrimination in federal programs that affect human health and the environment, as well as provide minority and low-income communities access to public information and public participation.”

We would like to see the Corps’ Mobile District live up to its neighborly potential by ensuring that the GRR’s NEPA process and its corresponding EO 12898 obligations are implemented responsibly by engaging in concerted EJ community outreach to the Down the Bay and Orange Grove communities in a timely manner, because we know that NEPA and EJ programs make projects better and build confidence in agency decisions. They are also the law.

Sincerely,
[101 local concerned citizens]

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