This post marks the beginning of our series on local environmental justice heroes. The individuals highlighted in this series are leaders in their communities and champions for environmental justice. Their activism and leadership have led to positive change in their community.
Dr. Horace Strand has been working to bring environmental justice to Chester for over 30 years. Chester, a small city just south of Philadelphia, has been identified as one of the nation’s worst cases of environmental racism. The population in Chester is 74% Black, with 33% of the population living below the poverty line and is home to an unprecedented number of industrial polluting facilities, including a trash incinerator, a sewage treatment plant, oil refineries, and more. There are 11 industries that emit carcinogens in Chester; some emitting tens of thousands of pounds of carcinogens every year.
In 1992, Dr. Strand was one of the founders of the Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL) to address clustering of environmentally unsafe facilities within the community. CRCQL provided testimony to EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) concerning adverse environmental conditions in Chester and in 1996, filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). CRCQL blocked the permitting of new hazardous waste facilities in Chester and in doing so became a national figure in the suit Chester v Seif, PA DEP that went to the US Supreme Court, firmly establishing Chester as an Environmental Justice Community.
In 2005, Dr. Strand founded the Chester Environmental Partnership (CEP). This faith-based organization consists of a coalition of local, state, and federal government officials, academia and student representation, profit and non-profit organizations, and community and faith-based leadership. The CEP addresses zoning, land use, permitting, environmental health and environmental health risk intervention, smart growth, and partnerships to improve the quality of life and safety of residents. The CEP meets with local industry partners to discuss renewal and new permits, new and best management technology, job growth and economic development in the city, county, and state. Dr. Strand works to ensure that the voice of Chester residents are always heard.