Student’s Choice: ‘The EPA’s Failure to Protect People From the Environment’

The Atlantic published a piece on the 30th of September, commenting on a report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that had recently been released in regard to the EPA’s compliance to environmental justice initiatives. In the short piece, author Vann R. Newkirk II observed that the report was very critical of what the EPA has accomplished when it comes to adjudicating civil rights cases.

This article did a good job in summarizing the contents of the report, while also providing historical context for the origin of the commission. His lede summarizes what’s to come, as well as generating interest for the issue:

“Does the Environmental Protection Agency actually protect communities of color from environmental problems? A new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights suggests it has largely failed that duty.”

He also provides a link to the report so people can easily find it and form their own opinions.

He then summarizes the findings, pulling quotes from the report itself to back up his claims. This is the most important job of the article, so it goes first—a good example of the inverted pyramid journalistic style.

He then describes how the commission came to be formed, as well as relating the findings to current events. This is a very relevant article  because of the current national climate surrounding race relations and social justice, and also its intersection with environmental issues. Not many people consider the civil rights aspect of environmental issues, but the Flint crisis is a great example of how communities of color can be disproportionally impacted.

I thought this was a solid article that incorporated a concise summary of the report, the historical context, and its relation to current events.

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6 Responses to “Student’s Choice: ‘The EPA’s Failure to Protect People From the Environment’”

  1. I agree, this is a very credible and informative article. It provides enough historical context surrounding environmental justice and the EPA, while examining its effectiveness using solid evidence.

    This article also did a very job connecting the lead to the ending in an impactful way. The lead starts out with a provocative question that engages the audience by questioning the intentions of the Environmental Protection Agency. This is an agency that is typically seen in a positive manner, however the reporter is disproving this assumption with evidence from various articles. The ending of the article comes back to the first piece of evidence that was used. It ties together the article by coming back to the beginning, while also stating another provocative statement. This encourages the audience to think about the issue of environmental justice in a more critical fashion that they may have before.

  2. This article has a strong lead that captures your attention and speaks throughout the piece. While reading the article, I thought critically about environmental justice and about putting my own privilege into perspective.

    Although I admired how the article used several credible sources and examples of the EPA’s lack of action in regards to regulation, I question what would happen if the article didn’t focus only on communities of color with EPA neglect or could the scope be widened to other communities? Would this shift the focus of importance and weaken the argument? One source (The Washington Post) given in the article provides a different take on criticizing the EPA without bringing up race.

    In addition, the time-period in which this article was written must be taken in account. Being right before the presidential election makes this more important of a topic. Hillary Clinton is known for promoting the EPA to counter environmental racism, so the fact that this article exposes the faults in the EPA makes it controversial.

  3. This article is very thought provoking and informative. When considering the EPA, many people may not immediately think about the agency’s role in civil rights and environmental justice.

    This article was definitely useful in that it provided context to the report issued by the Commission on Civil Rights and explained why it is important. Still, this article is overwhelmingly negative towards the EPA. This is such an important topic that a proactive reader would seek additional information about this report or look to read more articles by different news sources. This would help the reader form their own opinion about the EPA rather than being based off the one article. I would argue that this article from Mother Jones does a better job covering the story. It gives the story a more human focus by writing about how EPA failings have impacted a specific place. The story is also a bit more balanced because it includes a statement the EPA issued in response to the report.

  4. I agree that this article addressed an important report from the U.S. commission on civil rights and packaged it up into a nice, digestible article. Portraying the stance was skillfully done by weaving the report into the article and expanding on the historical context. Overall, very convincing that the EPA is in the wrong.

    Yet, this article is just an echo of the actual report it describes. Looking at the journalism more critically, I think it lacks the perspective from the EPA’s side. I think that this class supports more objective writing to be what is considered good journalism. The conclusion at the end of the article is the opposite of objective and tells the reading how we should feel about the EPA and report.

    Finally, I think the perspective from Kate about timing of this article with the election is profoundly important but something I was oblivious to. Many readers are probably like me and reading this article without perspective on timing.

  5. I agree that this article did an excellent job of analyzing the EPA’s failure to protect citizens from environmental justice concerns, despite it being one of EPA’s direct responsibilities.

    The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report at the beginning provides an interesting lead to hook readers, but I think the statement that EPA “avoided pushing civil rights complaints alleging discrimination based on disparate impact for fear that the agency would lose such a case if challenged in court” could have used some further explanation. The article expressed many times how slow and ineffective the EPA was at addressing environmental justice issues, but was missing the reason behind it. This report’s statement was one of the only times the article tried to address the reason behind EPA’s failures, and I wonder if that was because the failures were so huge that it seemed there couldn’t be an excuse for them, or that the author was trying to present this matter in an entirely negative angle against the EPA. I would have liked to hear more about the reasoning behind these failures, so further explanation of this quote alleging EPA’s fear of losing the case would have provided the reader with more context. I also think bringing in other sources or maybe including a statement EPA made about these failures, if any, would help provide the other side to the story.

  6. Katie, I’m glad you chose to focus attention on racism this week. It’s such a very important and challenging story.

    The story you highlighted builds on an investigation published last year by an investigative journalism nonprofit, the Center for Public Integrity: https://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/08/03/17668/environmental-racism-persists-and-epa-one-reason-why

    This investigation by Kristen Lombardi, Talia Buford and Ronnie Greene has won several awards.

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