On Thursday, health and policy experts will gather in Houston for the Invisible Houston Revisited Three Decades Later Policy Summit at Texas Southern University. The summit will explore and expand upon the topics and themes highlighted in Dr. Robert D. Bullard’s 1987 book Invisible Houston.
Dr. Bullard’s groundbreaking book revealed that Houston’s municipal authorities disproportionally sited environmental hazards, such as garbage dumps and incinerators, in neighborhoods predominately occupied by minorities. Since then, Dr. Bullard, “father of environmental justice” and current Dean of the School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, has led the charge for Environmental Justice, the concept that environmental laws and policies should not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin or income. His advocacy work culminated in the Environmental Justice Executive Order signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, which codified the values of Environmental Justice into law.
Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sought to advance Environmental Justice across the federal government, including developing guidance to consider environmental justice in EPA rulemakings. Ultimately, the goal of this mission is to eliminate the disproportionate impact of industrial activities on environmental justice communities.
I will give a presentation at the summit titled “Environmental Justice Concerns and Broad Scale Strategies to Reduce Pollution Hotspots: A Focus on Ports.” The presentation will feature EDF’s efforts to reduce emissions across ports, including the Port of Houston, one of the largest ports in the world. The container ships and heavy diesel trucks that move goods through the port release emissions containing particulate matter and gases that form ozone, which irritate the lungs and increase the frequency of hospital visits, heart attacks and even cancer. I’m excited to discuss how we can craft effective environmental laws and policies to protect all Americans from harmful air pollution.
If you’re in Houston, I invite you to attend the summit and celebrate Dr. Bullard’s important contributions to Environmental Justice. He is a true pioneer and we are lucky to have his expertise and focus on Houston.