Great Rivers’ Environmental Justice Program is committed to monitoring permitting actions for sites proposed for development that will unfairly burden minority or low income populations. Great Rivers has evaluated proposed developments to determine whether permitting authorities have unfairly targeted disadvantaged populations. Great Rivers has asserted environmental justice claims against the City of St. Louis and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Bring Environmental Justice to North St. Louis Project
The need for environmental justice in North St. Louis is pressing. This region is rife with toxic industries that impact the health of its community members. More than 90% of this area’s population is African-American, and a staggering number of families live below the poverty line. The per capita income in the area we are targeting ranges from $7,865 and $10,008 annually. Low-income families and minorities in North St. Louis bear a disproportionate burden of toxicity in their environment as compared to their racial and socioeconomic counterparts. Great Rivers is reviewing permit applications and monitoring reports of businesses along the Mississippi River in North St. Louis. Some residents lived in the area before the businesses and highway came to it; these residents have unfairly had to put up with these injustices.
Assisting the NAACP with Environmental Objectives
Another project in our Environmental Justice Program is advocating on behalf of the NAACP. Great Rivers’ President Bruce Morrison serves as the Chair of the Environmental Justice Committee of the Missouri State Conference of the NAACP. Great Rivers has worked on issues at their request concerning climate change, hazardous waste, air pollution, flooding and wetlands, sewage disposal and public lands. In 2018, Ameren Missouri, the electric utility covering the St. Louis region, agreed to work with the NAACP to provide affordable, renewable, energy to low income and minority communities – read more about that here!
In 2022, the Missouri Foundation for Health provided a grant to Great Rivers to help us better engage with communities affected by unhealthy air quality. In collaboration with community partners including the Dutchtown South Community Corporation, A Red Circle, and the Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, a monitoring network was designed under the guidance of engineering professor Jay Turner. The City of St. Louis gave us permission to place our air monitors on its street light poles, and Dr. Turner’s graduate students installed the air monitors. Today, the monitors are in place and collecting data.
The placement of the monitors and the data collected is enabling our community partners and their members to see first-hand how close they live, work, and play to unhealthy levels of air pollution. With them, we advocate for more air monitoring in overburdened communities; for regulators to better account for the cumulative impacts of polluting sources; and for regulators to proactively engage with overburdened communities early in the permitting process. You can read more about the project and see its data here: