SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The Environmental Protection Agency refuses to turn over documents related to claims that California disproportionately exposed Latinos to a toxic pesticide, a nonprofit claims in federal court.
The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment says it needs to see EPA files to make sure that the agency properly investigated the claims it filed in Angelita C. v. California Department of Pesticide Regulation and Padres Hacia Una Veda Mejor v. California Department of Toxic Substances.
In both cases, the group claimed that California agencies had violated Title VI, which "prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin under any program or activity of a recipient of federal financial assistance."
The 1999 Angelita complaint, which the center filed with two other activist groups, accused the California Department of Pesticide Regulation of disproportionately exposing Latino children and their parents to methyl bromide, a toxic chemical once used as a pesticide and soil fumigant in the agricultural industry.
Though the EPA told California's Department of Pesticide Regulation on April 11, 2011, that the evidence "demonstrated a prima facie violation of Title VI," the center says that the agency "engaged in a series of backroom negotiations, resulting in a settlement which provided no relief to the Latino children or parents."
The center says it filed Padres in December 1994 on behalf of three small Southern California communities, claiming the California Department of Toxic Substances authorized "the only three toxic waste dumps in California in only rural, low-income, Latino communities."
On June 30, 2011, the group allegedly sued the EPA for wrongfully withholding action on Padres.
It says nearly a year has passed since the EPA received its written requests for records on Angelita and Padres.
Instead of complying with the mandatory 20-day window, the agency promised the center "rolling access" to the documents once the agency had located and reviewed them, according to the complaint.
The center says, however, that no documents have been forthcoming.
"EPA is unlawfully withholding from public disclosure information sought by the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment ('CRPE', or 'plaintiff'), information to which it is entitled to and for which no valid disclosure exemption applies or has been expressly asserted," the complaint states. 2
The group is represented by in-house counsel Brent Newell and lists its local counsel as Daniel Snyder, with the Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt in Eugene, Ore.
California's Pesticide Regulation Department denies wrongdoing, saying there were no "adverse or disparate effects on Latino children during the time period examined."
"DPR agreed to settle without going through that process because it has made significant changes to ensure the safety of field workers, the public and environment in the past 12 years," a spokeswoman said. "It wasn't worth the investment in resources to take this issue to hearing. DPR agreed to continue on the course it has been following for years."