Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Despite Health Risk, GAO Study Finds Little Economic Benefit to 15 Communities With Polluting Industrial Plants

July 12, 2002

 
Washington, D.C. - The Government Accounting Office (GAO) today released a report that raises significant concerns about the supposed economic benefits of locating polluting facilities in lower-income communities.

The report, requested by Democratic Representatives Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), John Conyers (Mich.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.), and José E. Serrano (N.Y.), grew out of evidence that lower-income communities are exposed to more pollution than the general population because factories and other facilities are allowed to locate nearby. These communities, often comprised of people of color, may suffer greater health risks as a result of smoke, chemicals and other toxins in the air, water and soil.

“The results of the GAO report challenge the argument that polluting plants bring great benefits to communities by creating new jobs,” Pelosi said. “Of the 15 facilities reviewed by the GAO, in most cases only a few jobs were created.”

In its report, the GAO said: “The most recent information showed that the number of full-time jobs at the time of our review ranged from four to 103 per facility, with nine of the facilities having 25 jobs or less.”

“Polluting facilities come into low-income and minority communities promising jobs and economic development. In the GAO study, these companies promised more jobs than they delivered,” according to Congressman Conyers.

Rep. Waters said: “Low-income communities are crying out for jobs and economic opportunities. But of the 15 companies in the GAO study, not one could or would show that the small number of new jobs they created went to the local communities that bear the brunt of the pollution they generate.”

Commented Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.: “The GAO gave these facilities the opportunity to take credit for the jobs they brought to local communities. They chose not to share that information -- probably because they know how few jobs really go to local residents. They also did not show that local workers are well-paid.”

Said Congressman Serrano: “Hunts Point South Bronx is a checkerboard of waste-handling facilities. The facilities studied by the GAO failed to show that jobs are going to residents of Hunts Point. So the Hunts Point community has to live with the emissions, smells, and sight of waste-handling plants, while receiving very little benefit in return.”

The study looked at facilities that had been subject to complaints under the Civil Rights Act and under EPA regulations barring issuance of federal permits that have a discriminatory effect based on race, color, or national origin.

 


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