OUR OPINION: EPA Administrator turns blind eye on environmental injustice in South Delta

Published 4:00 am Friday, December 10, 2021

Michael Regan, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, took a trip from Mississippi to Texas in mid-November, omitting a key location from his tour.

Regan visited public schools in Jackson, communities near oil refineries in the corridor nicknamed “Cancer Alley” and even stopped in New Orleans’ Gordon Plaza neighborhood. He played heavily on emotions, explaining that as the first Black EPA Administrator, the visits were “really personal” because the residents “look like me.”

It would have been prudent, given his agency’s recent gaffe with the rejection of the Yazoo Pumps Project, for Regan to visit with residents in the South Mississippi Delta as well. He was within a two-hour drive of the area, and as has been reported by The Post and quoted by several state lawmakers, the area affected by the pumps is 96 percent minority households. Instead of facing those who are disproportionately affected by the chronic flooding in the area, and owning up to the fact that his agency let them down, Regan chose to ignore them and instead go to locations that are more highly populated and, presumably, where he’d be praised for his promises of change.

Are the people of the South Delta less deserving of this “environmental justice” of which Regan continues to speak? Or are there simply not enough voters for the area to appear on his radar?

While Regan surely meant well in his statements and outward expression of emotion, it seems disingenuous given the recent rejection of the Yazoo Pumps Project. In front of the people of Jackson, of New Orleans and of Reserve, La., it seemed as though he was pandering to constituents while ignoring other issues. While he is appointed rather than elected, Regan still seemed to be practicing the “D.C. dip and twirl,” giving classic politicians’ responses.

It’s not that the people of the communities Regan chose to grace with his presence have problems that are more or less severe than the plight of those in the South Delta — they most certainly are grave circumstances and that’s not up for debate. The issue here is Regan’s willingness to showboat in front of some while failing to address others.

Regan was quoted saying he wanted to “put faces and names with this term that we call environmental justice,” but why didn’t that extend to the South Delta? Where is their justice?

If Regan truly wants to go to a place where issues are hard to ignore, as he put it, he should pay a visit to those disproportionately affected by continuous flooding in and around the Yazoo and Mississippi rivers. Perhaps, in viewing row after row of flood-ravaged homes, field after field of damaged crops and decimated wildlife resources, Regan will deem the South Delta and its residents worthy of this environmental justice he claims to seek.