From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
July 30, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

Senator Rodney Ellis Calls for New Policies to Aid Urban Neighborhoods

HOUSTON, Tx. -- State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today announced that he will join African American lawmakers from across the nation on an Environmental Action Team to develop policies to combat environmental racism. Ellis said that too many African American communities are endangered by commercial hazardous waste facilities and that new policies are needed to expand economic opportunities and promote the cleanup of toxic waste in urban neighborhoods.

According to Ellis, the Environmental Action Teams will have three priorities: to make environmental cleanup an important issue for African Americans, to create new jobs and economic opportunity in urban communities, and to promote self-reliance in inner-city neighborhoods.

"We must do more to generate new economic opportunities and clean up environmental hazards in urban communities," said Ellis. "I want Texas to be a national leader in urban revitalization."

According to a recent report by the Center for Policy Alternatives which is sponsoring the environmental action teams, the concentration of people of color living in zip codes with hazardous waste facilities increased from 25 percent to nearly 31 percent between 1980 and 1993. In addition, the study found that people of color are 47 percent more likely than whites to live near hazardous waste facilities.

"Thousands of African Americans are living in communities where they are becoming ill and dying from the effects of contaminated soil, air and water," said Darold Johnson, Director of the Center for Policy Alternative's Community Policy Leadership Forum. "We want to make cleaning up toxic waste sites and other hazards a national priority."

During the 1997 legislative session, Ellis passed legislation providing tax incentives for businesses to clean up and redevelop contaminated properties. Ellis said his "brownfields" initiative could serve as a model for the nation.

"By providing tax incentives for the redevelopment of polluted properties, we will boost economic development and at the same time help improve the environment," Ellis said.

Other states such as Michigan have offered additional incentives such as seed money for site assessments, low-interest loans and tax incentives to encourage the remediation of contaminated sites.

"By providing incentives to clean up brownfields, more Texas families will have the opportunity to live and succeed in neighborhoods with parks and jungle gyms -- not junkyards," said Ellis. "New environmental policies will help our children and grandchildren grow up healthier in a safer and cleaner Texas."