"Hurricane Katrina Propels Jackson's Justice Quest at EPA"

"NEW ORLEANS -- More than four years after Hurricane Katrina, the single-story brick rancher in Pontchartrain Park where Lisa Perez Jackson grew up stands empty.

Floodwaters long ago ate away the walls of her corner bedroom, where the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency once hung Michael Jackson and Prince posters and studied her way to the top of her high school class.

Faded spray paint, left by search teams to indicate that no bodies were found, serves as a reminder of the day Jackson evacuated her mother, Marie, to Bossier City ahead of the approaching storm.

Katrina was the closest that an environmental disaster had hit home for someone who has spent her career solving environmental problems. Now, she's in charge of ensuring that all communities are equally protected from pollution.

The storm's toll on Jackson's childhood house and on New Orleans, particularly the Ninth Ward where she was raised, has intensified her quest for what's known as environmental justice. That means involving and getting fair treatment for the poor and minorities, who often endure the greatest exposure to environmental hazards but are outside the mainstream movement trying to find solutions."

Dina Cappiello reports for the Associated Press January 7, 2010.

Friday, January 8, 2010