Wednesday, January 18, 2023

EPA Badgers MDEQ in NAACP Complaint

The EPA brushed off the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality's response to the NAACP's complaint of environmental racism.  The NAACP accused MDEQ and other state agencies of intentionally depriving Jackson of much-needed funds for its water system in a complaint filed with the EPA's new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights.  

The plaintiffs are NAACP President Derrick Johnson, former Mayor Harvey Johnson, Frank Figgers, Gwendolyn Burt, Dr. Akemi Stout, Ed Sivak, Deidre Long, Charles Jones and Jane of the Clan of Doe.  The defendants are Governor Tate Reeves, DFA, MSDH, MDEQ, and State Treasurer David McRae. 

The NAACP accused the state of diverting federal funds meant for Jackson to majority-white communities while denying Jackson's pleas for funding as its water/sewer system collapsed.  The complaint charged MDEQ did not fund Jackson's water infrastructure needs by failing to properly allocate federal funding intended to support such infrastructure. NAACP argued the alleged lack of funding discriminated against Jackson's majority-black population.

MDEQ said it approved "every single loan application" submitted by the city of Jackson.  Director Chris Wells said the EPA was trying to divert attention away from the Lumumba administration's role in the collapse of the Jackson water treatment system and the complaint did not "allege any single fact" to support the NAACP's claims.  Earlier post with response.

The MDEQ response pointed out the amount of the loans are determined by the cost of the project supported by each loan.  MDEQ never denied funding to Jackson nor did it discriminate against Jackson despite the NAACP's claims. The Director took great pains to point out MDEQ has nothing to do with Jackson's water system as it only regulates wastewater treatment.  

MDEQ administers the Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund (WPCRF) loan program.  EPA reviews the program every year and never found any violations.  Director Wells stated  "Allegations are MDEQ has denied funding to Jackson through the WPCRF program are untrue."  

MDEQ approved twelve loans to Jackson from 1992 to 2018.  The total amount of the loans are $84,403,304.  Jackson repaid four loans while eight loans are in repayment.  The remaining balance due is $47,772,824.  Jackson has one active project in progress.  The design of the project is underway and construction is estimated to start in July.  The loan amount for the active project is $31,683,000.  

Thus, MDEQ has approved a grand total of $116,086,304 in WPCRF funding for Jackson's wastewater infrastructure projects.  

The response states Jackson's population is less than 5% of the state's population yet it received 27% of the loans in the program.  It received 49% of the loans issued in 2021 and 54% of the loans issued in 2018.  

Director Wells argued the complaint should be dismissed or limited to loans for which Jackson submitted an application.  Mr. Wells said the EPA is well aware of Jackson's failures to maintain its water system through its various investigations and consent decrees over the last decade.  He said the investigation is "standardless" while the EPA itself only provides "vague" guidelines on how to follow Title VI. 

 The EPA said that's all very nice but you still haven't responded to the complaint.   The EPA said it was trying to "resolve complaints informally whenever possible."  The agency met with MDEQ twice in November to discuss the complaint.  The EPA said MDEQ "has not responded" to the EPA's "offer of informal resolution."  

The federal agency could not understand why MDEQ would not just surrender to its very reasonable request.  So, the EPA did what federal agencies love to do when challenged.  It buried MDEQ in requests for more paperwork.  You can't make this up.  

The December 23 letter demands MDEQ produce a plethora of documents within thirty days.  Of course, the EPA reserves the right to demand more documents at any time.  The demands include all documents regarding water infrastructure or treatment programs going back to 1970 from MDEQ even though MDEQ has nothing to do with water treatment.  MDEQ told the EPA it only regulates wastewater but such facts fell on Commissar Hoang's deaf ears.  

Paragraph 10 is a perfect example of the disconnect between the EPA and MDEQ: 

The Complaint alleges that MDEQ “received funds from the EPA to provide safe drinking water and wastewater, and [was] aware of Jackson’s severe needs, but distributed to the city only a small fraction and disproportionately low amount [of funding].” Complaint at pg. 4. Does MDEQ agree with this statement? If not, please address this statement and provide/reference any documentation supporting MDEQ’s position.

MDEQ explained in its response that it only regulates wastewater and has nothing to do with providing safe drinking water.   Such facts meant nothing to the EPA Commissar who merely seeks a Mississippi scalp to hang on her wall.  

Related posts

Ask & Ye Shall Receive. What if you don't ask?  

NAACP files environmental civil rights complaint.  

Kingfish note: Keep in mind the state has now powers of discovery in the complaint process. Indeed, the office of environmental civil rights is so new the EPA has not really had time to establish procedures.  It's probably a safe bet the state will lose this round with the EPA. Director Regan doesn't want anything to make his Jackson bro look bad.  The state's best bet is to get into court where it can actually defend itself.  Until then, the state must participate in this farce of a complaint cooked up by the Brothers Johnson. 


Anonymous said...

Nothing but EPA racism. Evidently they were blinded by the light.

Anonymous said...

Just another example of why people are leaving Mississippi, and particularly Jackson.

Anonymous said...

Once again someone is trying to help Jackson and being met with resistance at every step. I’ve watched this for years whether it’s crime, garbage, infrastructure, etc. I honestly can’t figure it out. It’s like people don’t want Jackson to improve in any way!
Anyone have any ideas why this happens?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wells nails it. I've had experience with EPA and MDEQ and its predecessors, MDNR and MAWPCC, going back 4 decades. EPA couldn't find its butt with two hands and a flashlight. EPA has approved SRF funding, in writing, for every project funded with SRF money, every year, whether drinking water or wastewater. DEQ should tell EPA: (1) Our funding files are available for public inspection during business hours. Come see them. (2) See you in court.

FWIW, MDEQ does/did have some involvement in drinking water projects:

(1) MDEQ ran the nuts and bolts of the Drinking Water SRF under contract to the state's Drinking Water SRF Board for the first few years of its existence, because that Board has no staff. The Department of Health actually approved most of the documents involved. The Drinking Water Board, and not MDEQ or the Board of Health, made policy decisions and ran the priority system.

(2) MDEQ has funded some work at drinking water plants with Wastewater SRF funds, when the work had to do with reducing pollution in public waterways, such as a sludge treatment and handling facility at O.B. Curtis.

Anonymous said...

When you don't have any other card to raise, you raise the race card.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the bosses in D.C. have resolved, if the Dept. of Environmental Civil Rights can't nail Jackson, Mississippi who can they nail? What they don't know is that Jackson is actually it's own worst enemy. Or maybe they don't care. Jackson is too obvious to pass up.

Anonymous said...

As with the Federal offices of EEOC (for example) - A charged party is under no legal obligation to answer the complaint. Although complaints usually ARE answered, a decent lawyer can respond by practically refusing to respond - literally suggesting the complaint is broad, overreaching, vague, unsupported by fact and non-specific. It's a nice way of saying, "Proceed at your own risk - See you in court". Does the state have the balls to say that?

The worst thing the state can do is to provide a wagon-load of material in the form of narrative response and related history and data. That's a tactic used to 'wear out' a charged party and induce them to agree to sanction, settlement or some sort of conciliatory agreement (MO Money).

Neither the EEOC (for example), the Civil Rights Division nor the EPA has the authority to sanction the state nor determine guilt. Any of them can recommend prosecution or grant authority to proceed with a lawsuit. If that's where it needs to go...TEE IT UP!

Anonymous said...

"It’s like people don’t want Jackson to improve in any way!"

Those in charge know if Jackson becomes a viable City it means they will lose power and when that happens they lose the ability to pilfer the City's limited resources for their own profits, primarily through contracts with sham "experts" that somehow get awarded these contracts.

Anonymous said...

Attempts at informal resolution should not be more burdensome than actual litigation. At least in litigation a party can seek court intervention to stop abusive discovery practices.

This is the kind of crap that makes people want to strip down administrative agencies, and it's dangerous. They're just giving ammo to the Steve Bannon-types who want to tear it all apart.

Just file suit. If the EPA wants to claim that MDEQ has failed to exhaust its administrative remedies, there is precedent that says one does not have to pursue a clearly-futile administrative process.

That'sMisterDeplorableToYou said...

"Jane of the Clan of Doe" WTH is that?

Anonymous said...

11:49, the issue has been and always will be about control. Jackson begs for and desperately wants “help,” but only such help as allows politically motivated graft and corruption to continue unabated.

Anonymous said...

When it stops payin…they’ll stop braying.

Anonymous said...

There is no defeating the cathedral. The state’s faces are meaningless to them. Ignore and let them attempt to enforce their edicts.

Anonymous said...

Dear EPA,



Anonymous said...

EPA Office of Civil Rights can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine as this is the biggest load of crock ever heard. SOS as when BLM was allowed to destroy every city throughout the US with significant environmental impacts and looting as well causing millions of TAXPAYERS MONEY to be spent to repair. Did the EPA Civil Rights Division go after and fine those responsible for that. We all know the answer to that NO. Yes we will EXERCISE our RIGHT TO VOTE! We are NOT GONNA turn coat and run any longer.Take that to the bank! MDEQ did EVERYTHING RIGHT and JUST!

Anonymous said...

This isn’t that hard to prove, the state loses this case hands down. Take it to the Supreme Court to affirm it, it you want.

Anonymous said...

"BLM was allowed to destroy every city throughout the US"

That's a bit much, don'tcha think?

"This isn’t that hard to prove, the state loses this case hands down."

Well that settles it. We might as well stop wasting time and let the AG attorneys get back to hanging curtains. I'm sure Tate Reeves won't mind rolling over for Lumumba on this one. After all, Tate's been called a racist so much by Jackson leadership, he's probably used to it. Heck, he may even like it by now.

Anonymous said...

Yeah,voting, that'll show 'em.

Pizza Dough said...

"Jane of the Clan of Doe" WTH is that?

The ever-present catch-all when you attempt to sue everybody within shouting distance. Jane Doe, with brothers John and Joe and aunts Vernie-Sue and Lucretia, Mom and Pop Dough and little sister Cookie Doe. The Doe-Clan - Get it? Please tell me you get it.

Anonymous said...

As a Jackson resident, I'm happy for this lawsuit to play out.
The evidence will help us decide who is telling us " the whole truth" and nothing but".
And, IF you care about misspent tax dollars and corruption in MS, you might want to make an effort to find out how it was so easy for the News and Brett.

Anonymous said...

Of course there is always the possibility that the "Steve Bannon types" are correct.

Anonymous said...

12:37: You mean save the country by tearing it apart and starting over? Defend the Constitution by shredding it?

Anonymous said...

12:37 - Come down off your liberal pedestal and explain what a 'Steve Bannon' type is. Actually, Bannon is a very intelligent man with great, yet clever, ideas. That he has no boundaries has been his (temporary) downfall. In a strange sort of way, Bannon is sorta like the Jesse Jackson of your stripe.

You don't like Bannon simply because he, for a while, was a Trump fan. Hell, if Jesus came out as a fan of Trump, you people would deny him quicker than Judas did.

Anonymous said...

January 19, 2023 at 2:27 PM, examples, please. Don't simply run out with accusations, without examples, it makes you look weak and butt hurt.

Anonymous said...

""I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed. . . .

"Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.""

Anonymous said...

January 20, 2023 at 12:23 PM, that's not a reputable source you used, surely this information must be in more places. I'm thinking this is false, or disinformation, can you produce another source?

Wow said...

I really hope our Governor and state executive branch give MDEQ the support it needs to continue to remain principled, objective and facts-based in responding to the EPA. It saddens me for our country and how far everything has devolved that to think a major federal agency like the EPA would behave in such a non-facts, non-science based way.

It really builds extreme distrust in me our machinery of government.

I hope we continue responding well.

Anonymous said...

WLBT report today on this same thing. They don’t understand how EPA works. Accuse you of murder, and say they will plea bargain. You must be guilty, even if you didn’t kill anyone, because you won’t agree to plea bargain. Smart. Look at EPA’s process - do whatever they have to do to avoid actually having to prove their case in court.

MDEQ needs to just stand its ground. Make EPA put up or shut up.

Theca Jones of the Roguish Gent Podcast said...

and yet MDEQ refused to meet with the EPA to talk about their claims. lol

One day y'all are going to figure out how stupid they think y'all are. Honestly, they aren't that wrong.

Anonymous said...

“One day y'all are going to figure out how stupid they think y'all are”, said the proud supporter of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

Anonymous said...

January 21, 2023 at 9:52 AM, why lend credence to the EPA's claims by discussing something not true? Now, who's stupid?

Anonymous said...

9:52, I think a lot of people figured that out several years ago and it really pissed them off, which is how we ended up with an orange president.

Most people don't respond well to arrogance.

Anonymous said...

I don't think I would advise one of my clients to negotiate with a plaintiff that filed a completely baseless/frivolous lawsuit, which I believed had 0 chance of success. That is especially true if the client is seeking exoneration from inflammatory allegations.

I would probably first seek to have it dismissed by the court. If the case survived the motion hearing, then we could talk.

Anonymous said...

Hello Theca! How does it feel to be so misguided in so many of life's areas?

Nobody good sense and a good attorney would sit down with an enemy who wants to negotiate zero-based-charges against them. Never sit down with the other players in a card game and turn your cards over, face-up, as soon as they're dealt. They'll say thank you and smile if you do.

The game of the EPA, as with every federal agency, is to show up and say, "Here's our charges. Show us whatchu got!"

You don't hold trial (or pre-trial) in a conference room.

Anonymous said...

1!:31, Here's my $0.02: I hate it when attorneys practice law like they're playing poker because it just winds up wasting everyone's time and causes much unnecessary frustration. In my experience, by the time they show their cards, the game is already over and the real losers are the clients on both sides.

In this case, MDEQ has already provided a response to the allegations, backed up with with verifiable facts, which was not addressed in a meaningful way by the plaintiffs. The whole thrust of the EPA's complaint is to pin the blame of state officials for Jackson's water system failures. In other words, there's nothing to negotiate. This one needs a ruling from a court of competent jurisdiction.

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