EQABs may expect to have relatively little influence in a locality with one or only a few dominant employers, but the community is still likely to be better off than it would be in the absence of an environmental agenda and an agency to pursue it.
There are other Tennessee local government examples. Newport adopted a resolution to establish a local environmental agenda. The Knoxville Metropolitan Planning Commission sponsored the adoption of an expanded local environmental agenda. Germantown adopted a citizen environmental/public works advisory board and made it part of the city program. Memphis established an Earth Complex, and its mayor selected a citizen advisory committee to work with the city regarding policy directions and facility use.
Communities that employ these committees for curative/reactive purposes must interpret them as a mechanism for proactive and preventative environmental impact planning. The contributions of these bodies can be substantial, depending upon the degree of teamwork and trust among committee members, local government staff, elected officials, and residents concerned with ensuring a high quality environment for present and future generations.
John Bartlit's questions in a 1990 Environmental News Digest article are still valid today: “How safe is ‘safe enough'? How clean is ‘clean enough'?” The answer is as safe and as clean as society will support. Environmental advisory boards can help communities achieve this goal.
— Harless is program manager of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
A version of this article originally appeared in the National Civic Review, published by the National Civic League. It has been adapted with permission.