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EPA postpones environmental justice training after White House memo

EPA postpones environmental justice training after White House memo
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will postpone training on environmental inequity faced by communities of color and low-income communities following a White House order calling for agencies to stop training involving what it described as "anti-American propaganda."

Charles Lee, the EPA's senior policy adviser for environmental justice, told employees in an email that the department would postpone an event that was part of its speaker series on structural racism and environmental justice. 

"Pursuant to the memorandum issued by OMB [Office of Management and Budget] and with the expectation of more detailed guidance on implementation to be issued shortly, we are postponing this event for now. Once EPA has received and had the chance to review this more detailed guidance, we will let you know about next steps regarding the EJ and Structural Racism series," Lee wrote.

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EPA spokesperson James Hewitt confirmed to The Hill that the agency would put the training “on hold” until it receives “greater clarification” from The White House. 

Politico first reported that the training would be halted.

The White House memo in question, issued earlier this month by OMB Director Russell Vought, said that unspecified “press reports” indicated taxpayer dollars were being spent on training where employees “are told that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism’ or where they are required to say that they ‘benefit from racism.’”

The memo further said that federal agencies should “cease and desist” from using taxpayer funds on such training and ordered the agencies to identify contracts or spending relating to any training on topics such as white privilege. 

The EPA’s action follows a speech by Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities | Rocky Mountain National Park closed due to expanding Colorado wildfire | Trump order strips workplace protections from civil servants EPA eases permitting for modifications to polluting facilities OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA may violate courts with new rule extending life of unlined coal ash ponds | Trump reverses course, approving assistance for California wildfires | Climate change, national security among topics for final Trump-Biden debate MORE in which he outlined his vision for a second term and said the agency needs to center its efforts on achieving environmental justice for communities overburdened by pollution. 

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Studies have shown that low-income communities and communities of color face greater impacts from pollution. 

However, the Trump administration has also taken actions that advocates say will harm these communities, such as no longer requiring environmental analyses to consider how a construction project’s pollution will interact with existing sources of pollution in a community. 

Environmentalists criticized the decision to postpone the training. 

“Agencies like the EPA have a responsibility to center Environmental Justice in all of its work, in order to effectively carry out its mission to ‘protect human health and the environment,’” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. “The postponement of an anti-discrimination series at the behest of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s racist directive is an outrage and proves, yet again, just how hollow Andrew Wheeler’s words are.”