Energy and Environmental Justice
[Learn more about Environmental Justice]
[Printable PDF version of this factsheet]
- Nuclear power disproportionately affects communities of color, from the mining of uranium on Native American lands, to the targeting of black and Hispanic communities for new uranium enrichment facilities to the targeting of black and Hispanic and Native American communities for so-called "low-level" nuclear waste disposal sites. All of the sites proposed for "temporary" and permanent storage of high level nuclear waste (nuclear reactor fuel rods) have been Native American lands, with over 60 Native communities having been targeted.
- Nuclear reactors pollute, releasing radioactive pollution to the air and water, in addition to the solid wastes they produce. Much of the radiation lasts for generations, some for millions of years.
- Radioactive waste from uranium production has been used as "depleted uranium" ammunition in wars around the world, contaminating Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Vieques, Puerto Rico.
- Nuclear power isn’t a solution to global warming. In 2001, 93% of the nation’s reported emissions of CFC-114, a potent greenhouse gas, were released from the U.S. Enrichment Corporation, where nuclear reactor fuel is produced. These facilities are so energy intensive that some of the nation’s dirty, old coal plants exist just to power the nuclear fuel facilities.
- New nuclear power reactors are being proposed in the U.S., including an experimental one specially designed to produce hydrogen. One of the first three new nuclear reactors planned since the 1970s is to be located in Claiborne County, Mississippi, a county which is 82% African-American.
- A 2009 study of the geography of currently-operating nuclear reactors shows that there is a high concentration of reactors in the southeastern U.S. and that the locations of the reactors tend to be in low-income communities.
- Over 250 new coal plants are proposed in the U.S., including some plans for several coal-to-oil refineries, to produce coal-based liquid fuels for vehicles as well as hydrogen.
- Coal plants disproportionately affect African-American communities. 68% of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant – the distance within which the maximum effects of the smokestack plume are expected to occur. By comparison, about 56% of the white population lives within 30 miles of these plants.
- Coal mining destroys low-income rural communities in Appalachia, where mountains are dismantled and valleys are being filled with coal waste. Native American communities in the southwest are also being exploited for their coal by genocidal government policies and corporate abuses.
- Wars have been fought against people of color in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia and many other countries in order to control the oil and gas resources in their region.
- In the U.S., our Great Lakes, our public forests, the Rocky Mountains, our off-shore areas, and pristine lands such as Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve are under assault by oil and gas corporations.
- New gas pipelines have been proposed around the nation, including a new gas pipeline to bring Alaskan natural gas to the lower 48 states. The areas in Northern Alaska where most of the oil and gas drilling would occur are inhabited by Native Americans whose survival depends on the health of the wildlife in the area.
- In recent years, hundreds of gas-fired power plants have been proposed. Many have been defeated by local opposition. Many which were built were constructed in poor or minority communities.
- Incinerators to burn trash, tires, sewage sludge, animal wastes, construction/demolition wood wastes, paper and lumber mill wastes, trees, crops and toxic landfill gas have been described as "biomass" – masquerading as some sort of "renewable" energy, regardless of the major environmental hazards posed by these burners.
- Many incinerators have been located in low-income or minority communities. Their pollution accumulates in places where minority populations are disproportionately affected. Mercury pollution contaminates fish, which low-income and minority people consume more than other Americans. Dioxins in the U.S. migrate to the Canadian Arctic, where the highest levels of dioxins in breast milk have been found in the Native Americans who subsist on a dioxin-contaminated food chain.
- Hydroelectric dams proposed in Canada would flood out large areas, displacing Native Americans from their traditional lands.
- Dams can cause methane, a greenhouse gas, to be released when vegetation is flooded. They can also help liberate naturally-occurring mercury in the ground, enabling it to contaminate fish.