Environmentalism as a tool for social justice? So is the precedent of an executive order signed by President Clinton in 1994 that the Obama administration has since taken up. The Washington Times reports that 17 federal agencies signed the August 4, 2011, memorandum acknowledging that "Each Federal agency agrees to the framework, procedures, and responsibilities” of integrating environmental justice into all of its “programs, policies, and activities.”
The most recent example of its enforcement came on a highway project in Northern Virginia. The state was installing express toll lanes around Arlington to alleviate traffic congestion, but the county sued the state, pointing to the memorandum while arguing that the toll lanes would negatively impact the minority and low-income communities that were adjacent to the road. The lawsuit cost taxpayers $2 million dollars. The business community is angry because this impacts the revenue that would have been directed toward them via the traffic overhaul, and the state will now skip Arlington rather than wage an expensive legal fight.
The Washington Times's Katherine Timpf joined "Real News" Monday to explain the case and lawsuit, which is hurting local business and in turn adversely effecting the disadvantaged communities that the administration thought they could help. Timpf notes that the executive order gives the federal government control over very small local projects like the traffic lanes in Arlington.
"I personally don't trust the federal government to make the best decisions for me or for any small local entity," said Timpf. "I think it's a very dangerous precedent to set."