Monday, December 13, 2010

Environmental Justice in Alaska- Health Risks of Permitted Pollution Ignored:

Alaska- Health Risks of Permitted Pollution Ignored:
Indigenous Peoples left behind

To: National Environmental Justice Advisory Commission

From: Nikos Pastos & Carl Wassilie
Alaska's Big Village Network

Environmental Justice principles as outlined in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s strategic goals must be formally included in all permitting processes in Alaska. The United States of America has a federal trust obligation to Tribal governments and their peoples. The indigenous peoples of Alaska are citizens with a distinct historical and political relationship with the United States of America. EPA has a mission that can equitably protect and enhance environmental justice concerns in tribal communities that have suffered so many tangible adverse impacts from fast track, hasty environmental permitting. A good place to start would be observing proper notification protocols and consultation including language and cultural accommodation based on EPA’s environmental justice policy, and the Executive Order on environmental justice (EO 12898).

In order for any permit application to move forward in which the ecosystem, environment and (subsistence) living cultural resources of Tribal Governments and indigenous peoples could be impacted; there must be a formal review in a democratic process (tribal governments). Communication is a matter of utmost significance when permitted activities have potential impacts to local food security; and the potential to disrupt and destroy customary and traditional cultural life ways of hunting, gathering, fishing, harvesting, commerce and navigation.

Given the historic cultural degradation of America's First Peoples from permitted and unpermitted industrial development activities; a hard look from the articulated goals of EPA Environmental Justice policies must be enacted in real and tangible practices to have any credibility with indigenous peoples in modernity. Furthermore, resources must be allocated to Tribal Governments for building capacity to address the technical, legal and general communications to Tribal populations regarding all environmental permitting processes.

The transfer of permitting primacy by the United States of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) to the proposed State of Alaska Pollution Discharge Elimination System (APDES) is legally questionable due to a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Region 10 EPA and the State of Alaska Department of Conservation. The State of Alaska does not have regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with Tribal officials in development of State policy that has profound tribal implications to the environment and health of indigenous peoples and tribal citizens. The State of Alaska has not substantively demonstrated the capacity to actually exercise oversight and compliance of simple reporting requirements of the Clean Water Drinking Act in villages of Alaska. How could tribal peoples and all other citizens have confidence or assurance that minimal federal standards for waste water discharges from mineral extraction, (oil, gas, mining) , timber industries, seafood processing industries, municipalities are properly monitored by a quasi-permitting program of the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation?
No consultation process has yet been developed to adequately address the adverse, disproportionate, cumulative impacts of thousands of permitted and pending industrial developments in Alaska that impact indigenous peoples human rights. Language translations are needed in areas and populations where significant percentages of the people speak indigenous language first and very limited English second. All health risks of permitted pollution are miscalculated; disproportionately impacting indigenous peoples and tribal citizens in Alaska when disregarding bioaccumulation, cumulative toxic risks and fish and wild food consumption rates and patterns.

1 comment:

  1. chlorella - It's really good for me to see you and your hard work. Every piece of your work looks amazing. Look forward to learning more from you.