Environmental Protection Agency efforts to promote environmental justice are working and more extreme measures, such as a no-pollution mandate, would hurt chances of economic prosperity for those communities that need it most.

That was the main argument of the Michigan State University debate team, which was invited to debate against Wayne State University during the 2011 Conference on Environmental Justice, sponsored by the EPA on Aug. 25.

"Environmental Justice lies at the intersection of some of the most important social issues for Michigan communities: economic growth, environmental sustainability and racial equality," said Casey Harrigan, director of MSU debate. "How relevant actors, including the EPA and local community groups, approach the issue will have tremendous implications for all three of these areas."

According to the EPA, environmental justice means no group of people — including specific races or socioeconomic classes — should bear the burden of the negative environmental consequences of industrial or commercial business.

Harrigan said polluting industries are typically located in economically challenged communities, but these industries provide jobs and economic revival. So MSU debaters will argue that projects such as car factories in Detroit should be encouraged, rather than discouraged because of environmental concerns.

"The best balance for most communities is struck by encouraging sustainable development, which emphasizes treatment, remediation and environmental investigation," he said. "It places as much emphasis upon poverty-reduction and economic growth as it places upon environmental protection."

Having won college national championships in 2010, 2006 and 2004, MSU debate is one of the top teams in the country. It also has a history of debating in EPA events, having done so most recently in 2009.

Source: Michigan State University