(BALTIMORE, MD) October 3, 2009 – Nearly 150 Marylanders gathered today at Morgan State University to develop a comprehensive State effort to improve planning, development, and public health assessments to reach sustainability goals. The Environment, Justice, and Health in the Planning Process: Strategies for Maryland symposium outlined Maryland’s environmental justice challenges and the work of the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities (CEJSC). By improving coordination and planning in the permitting process, the CEJSC believes communities will be empowered and benefit from an improved quality of life. Socio-economic status, noise, traffic, design, pollution, and other environmental factors have a significant effect on the health of communities.
Director of the U.S. EPA Office of Environmental Justice Charles Lee, who delivered the keynote address, said, “Administrator Lisa Jackson has brought new energy to EPA’s commitment to incorporate environmental justice in everything we do. We are working to build communities that are cleaner, healthier, and more livable. Nowhere is this effort more meaningful than in minority and low-income communities, both urban and rural, disproportionately burdened by pollution. This work is successful only when federal and State governments work in partnership, so I am excited about exploring opportunities with Marylanders to create change.”
CEJSC Chairman Scot Spencer said: “Too often the communities with the greatest risks for environmental hazards and injustices are not at the table to share their concerns about growth, development, and land use where they live. Today’s symposium brings stakeholders together to participate in the democratic process and work collectively to find mutually beneficial solutions.”
Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari T. Wilson said: “Environmental justice is not a standalone issue, rather it is something we must consider in all of our daily work to protect Maryland’s air, land, and water, and to improve the lives of Maryland families.”
Participants heard about case studies demonstrating how zoning and land use processes address environmental justice and the public health effects of planning and development. During breakout sessions, participants made recommendations on how to improve environmental justice needs in data and information management, community advocacy, and public policy and delivered their findings in a report at the end of the day.
The Maryland Department of the Environment and the CEJSC have partnered to address issues of Environmental Justice throughout Maryland. The CEJSC was established by Executive Order on January 1, 2001, and signed into law on May 22, 2003. The CEJSC is a fifteen-member body that includes two State legislators, three cabinet secretaries, and ten Governor appointees representing six interests groups—environmental advocacy, public health, local government, regulated business, impacted community, and the general public with expertise and/or interest in environmental Justice.
The CEJSC is tasked with examining issues of environmental justice and sustainable communities in order to create healthy, safe, economically vibrant, and environmentally sound communities for all Marylanders in a manner that allows for democratic processes and community involvement.