Frequent Questions

Some environmental groups have charged that cement kilns and other incinerators are permitted in mostly low-income and minority areas. Is this true, and if so, how does the Agency intend to address this issue?

The Agency is sensitive to the concerns that minority and low-income populations have relative to siting decisions for hazardous waste burning facilities. The recent enhancement of public participation opportunities (see A1 above) will help ensure that these concerns are taken into account for future siting decisions. Existing facilities, however, are sometimes sited in areas that are predominately populated by minority or low-income families, or sometimes the area becomes populated in that fashion after the facility has been operating. The Agency's Environmental Justice Task Force is endeavoring to ensure that the public participation process provides the opportunity to fully address the environmental justice concerns of these communities. Also, in the risk evaluation performed as part of this rulemaking, the Agency has considered exposure and risk scenarios that indicate the protectiveness of the final emission standards with respect to special subsets of the population that, because of life-styles and particular diet considerations, may face special risks.
 
The environmental justice analysis conducted in support of the final rule examined the demographic data presented in the following two reports: "Race, Ethnicity, and Poverty Status of the Populations Living Near Cement Plants in the United States" (EPA, August 1994), and "Race, Ethnicity, and Poverty Status of the Populations Living Near Commercial Hazardous Waste Incinerators in the United States" (EPA, October 1994). These reports document the number of low-income and minority individuals living near cement kilns and commercial hazardous waste incinerators. These reports also provide county, state, and national population percentages for various sub-populations. 

Findings from this analysis indicate the following: 

Overall, combustion facilities do not appear to be concentrated in areas with disproportionately high minority and low-income populations. 

Hazardous waste-burning cement kilns, however, tend to be located in areas that have relatively high low-income populations in relation to county and state percentages. These populations are likely to incur some environmental and health benefits as a result of the MACT standards. 

A small number of commercial hazardous waste incinerators were found to be located in highly urbanized areas that have disproportionately high concentrations of minorities and low-income populations within one and five mile radii. The reduced emissions at these facilities due to the final MACT standards is likely to result in environmental and health improvements for minority and low-income populations in these areas.

For more information, see http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/td/combustion.htm and 
http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/wyl/envjustice.htm.
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