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Environmental justice advocates say Florida violated neighbors' civil rights in permitting Doral incinerator

MDC resource recovery center
Miami-Dade County
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Social justice advocates filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, saying Florida environmental regulators violated neighbors' civil rights as it renews the plant's pollution permt.

Social justice advocates filed a formal complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, claiming Florida regulators violated neighbors’ civil rights in permitting a nearly 40-year-old incinerator in Doral.

Attorneys for Earthjustice say Florida failed to file public notices in Spanish or provide an interpreter for the mostly Spanish-speaking neighbors. They say when asked, the state also would not hold a joint virtual and in-person meeting to better accommodate surrounding residents.

The state is in the process of renewing the incinerator’s air pollution permit, which expires Monday.

“It is long overdue that DEP come up with a plan to ensure non-English speakers have the same access to environmental processes affecting their health and environment that English speakers do,” Earthjustice attorney Dominique Burkhardt said in a statement.

The complaint also asks EPA officials to force Florida to consider relevant social justice issues in its permitting process.

Earthjustice filed the complaint on behalf of Florida Rising, which has been challenging the continued use of the incinerator in the mostly Spanish-speaking neighborhoods around it. More than a third are also low-income.

In 2020, the two organizations sent a letter to DEP opposing the expansion of the landfill based on neighbors’ complaints about odors.

The group said after submitting comments opposing the state’s plan to renew the incinerator’s air permit, it asked DEP for a public meeting so neighbors could be heard. The agency agreed to a virtual meeting, but published the notice in English only.

Initially, DEP officials said they would provide presentations in English and Spanish. Public comments provided in Spanish would be translated and transcribed after the meeting, according to the complaint. When Earthjustice followed up with a letter providing information on the number of Spanish-speaking neighbors, DEP agreed to have a bilingual employee available but not provide a certified interpreter.

When the meeting notice was finally issued, a link provided to the meeting space was incorrect. DEP officials canceled the meeting, the complaint said, which has yet to be rescheduled.

Jenny Staletovich has been a journalist working in Florida for nearly 20 years.