EPA’s McCarthy Visits Houston Community to Reaffirm Commitment to Environmental Justice


McCarthy and Parras listen to community members

Juan Parras has been leading the effort to bring environmental justice to Manchester for many decades. As founder and director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), Juan has galvanized residents, published important studies, informed the media, and organized action campaigns around reducing air pollution and protecting the environment in communities around the Houston Ship Channel. Last week, Juan’s tireless leadership was on display as U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited a Manchester neighborhood forum to speak about how EPA is working to make a real impact in environmental justice communities.

The Manchester community, on the eastern side of Houston, is surrounded by heavy industry including an oil refinery, as well as major freight traffic corridors like East Loop 610. Residents, many of whom are Latino and low income, often report health challenges such as asthma, headaches, dizziness, and even cancer. Many of the challenges are profiled in a recent report titled "Who’s in Danger?” that highlights demographic information of communities in industrial vulnerability zones. Administrator McCarthy saw first-hand the proximity of petrochemical facilities to homes, playgrounds, and community centers. She heard directly from concerned residents about the environmental issues they face daily.

Juan, with the support of partners, facilitated the forum and provided the vital platform for McCarthy to better understand challenges in Manchester, and for community members to learn how EPA is committed to improving environmental justice outcomes. Nearly a dozen community groups and advocacy organizations were in attendance showing their solidarity with Manchester and TEJAS. The community center was buzzing with interest as the critical discussions began earnestly.

McCarthy’s energy during the visit was palpable and her passion self-evident. Tough environmental justice challenges don’t get solved in one trip, as McCarthy and Juan both recognize, but this community forum was an important step in strengthening the dialogue.

Even a group of motivated local high school students asked McCarthy informed questions about environmental challenges they see in their community. And as McCarthy noted, a toddler in the audience was the perfect reminder that our kids and their health is the main reason why EPA and so many others are deeply committed to protecting the environment and making the world a healthier and safer place to live.

Houston is fortunate to have a community leader like Juan Parras, and an EPA Administrator like Gina McCarthy, working hard every day to improve quality of life, ensure health protections, and safeguard the environment. EDF is proud to stand with TEJAS, and many other partner organizations, in the work to improve air quality for all Houston neighborhoods.

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