Washington, D.C. – Mustafa Santiago Ali, Senior Vice President for Climate, Environmental Justice, & Community Revitalization at Hip Hop Caucus, today released the statement below about the impacts severe storms have on our most vulnerable communities, and the lack of prioritization and response they receive from this Administration, including recent reports that Administrator Scott Pruitt is relocating the offices of Environmental Justice and National Environmental Policy Act Compliance out of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These offices were formed out of a set of recommendations from stakeholders over the years under both Republican and Democratic Administrations. They provide critical expertise, protection of public health, and ensure that input and needs of all communities are fully considered by the agency, including ahead of, during, and following disasters.
“Moving these offices is very alarming, especially in the immediate aftermath of Harvey and looking ahead at Irma. This is another example of how this Administration is dissecting and dismantling the agency with a scalpel to favor industry polluters instead of protecting the health and prosperity of the American people. These actions politicize and weaken these offices, and continue to show a lack of connection to the voices and input from our most vulnerable communities by this Administration. This is at a time when the current leadership should be moving forward on the expansion of these offices to address the vastly disproportionate environmental impacts happening across the country to our most vulnerable communities – including communities of color, low income communities, and indigenous populations.”
“America’s most vulnerable communities are hardest hit and often undervalued, underestimated and marginalized by decision makers following storms like Harvey. For decades communities like Port Arthur and the Manchester neighborhood in Houston have been breathing in heavy toxic air that literally takes their breath away. Following Harvey, they now face even stronger first-hand exposure to harmful and unknown chemicals in their air, water, and land. First responders to the disaster areas are also exposed to these harmful toxins as they put their lives on the line to save lives and property. Vulnerable communities are also not typically prioritized in rebuilding efforts. They are often relocated to the most undesirable areas with the greatest risk to future public health threats and face many disproportionate hurdles as they attempt to recover financially.”
“Unfortunately, thus far the Trump Administration has not shown that they care about our most vulnerable communities. They have also shown an unwillingness to consider the impacts of an increasingly changing climate into their planning, policies, and priority setting for the American people. The current Administration has proposed drastic budget cuts that are not connected to the reality and dangers that vulnerable communities face, or what science is telling us. Their proposed cuts to NOAA, FEMA, EPA, and HUD in particular will have a direct correlation to the preparedness, response, and recovery within these communities hardest hit by Harvey and other severe storms of increasing magnitude, like Hurricane Irma approaching the U.S. mainland.”
“Vulnerable communities are forced into even more desperate situations, where their existing challenges are significantly compounded by these stronger storms and lack of foresight, empathy, and action by this Administration. This is literally putting people’s lives in jeopardy. This is the time we need to recognize the power, solutions, and opportunities to better prepare, respond, and rebuild for all. We need to work together to take our most vulnerable communities from surviving to thriving.”
For more, please be sure to check out Mustafa’s latest appearance on AM Joy, video interview with Robert Reich, and interview on the Politically Re-Active podcast with Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu. You can also keep up with him on Twitter (@EJinAction).
About Hip Hop Caucus: Formed in 2004, the Hip Hop Caucus (HHC) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that leverages Hip Hop culture to encourage people to participate in the democratic process. Through a collaborative network, HHC addresses core issues impacting under-served and vulnerable communities. HHC programs and campaigns support solution-driven community organizing led by today’s young leaders. Learn more at HipHopCaucus.org. Follow HHC online @HipHopCaucus on all social media platforms.
About Mustafa Santiago Ali: Mustafa Santiago Ali is a renowned national speaker, policy maker, community liaison, trainer, and facilitator. Mr. Ali specializes in social and environmental justice issues and is focused on a utilizing a holistic approach to revitalizing vulnerable communities. He joined the Hip Hop Caucus after working 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where he most recently served as Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization. Throughout his career he has worked with over 500 domestic and international communities to improve people’s lives by addressing environmental, health, and economic justice issues.