Environmental Justice and Federalism

Environmental Justice and Federalism

Dennis C. Cory, Tauhidur Rahman, Satheesh Aradhyula, Melissa Anne Burns and Miles H. Kiger

The authors discuss two case studies in their investigation of the complex interactions between environmental justice and government. These analyses offer a comprehensive view of both the siting and regulation of polluting activities, as well as a discussion of the effects on major natural resources such as clean air and drinking water. In each case, the authors both describe current government responses to the problem and offer specific recommendations regarding what actions should be taken in the future.

Chapter 2: Establishing an EJ claim of disparate-impact discrimination

Dennis C. Cory, Tauhidur Rahman, Satheesh Aradhyula, Melissa Anne Burns and Miles H. Kiger

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics, environmental law, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, environmental law, human rights, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, human rights


Somewhat surprisingly, efforts to formally address EJ concerns have been largely frustrated.1 The source of this frustration can be partly explained by legal requirements for establishing an EJ claim based on discrimination, and partly on procedural considerations under the EPA’s administrative complaint process. Legal and institutional factors impacting the establishment of EJ claims are briefly discussed in the following two sections. The principal obstacle to establishing a cogent EJ claim, however, concerns methodological debates over appropriate procedures for documenting disproportionate risk and the subsequent interpretation of study results.2 Methodological considerations are addressed in the fourth section of this chapter as background for the case studies presented in Chapters 3 and 4 on the existence of disproportionate environmental risk in low-income and/or minority communities in Arizona. Based on the survey of legal, institutional, and methodological issues, it is argued in the concluding section that addressing EJ conflicts through Performance Partnership Agreements (PPAs) is both feasible and desirable. PPAs are negotiated agreements between the EPA and state environmental agencies. These agreements can be carefully crafted to address the documentation, policy, implementation, administration, compliance and enforcement, and oversight responsibilities of both parties. Moreover, PPAs can be tailored on an issue-specific basis to complex siting and regulation disputes. This approach, based on cooperative federalism, is feasible since a sophisticated and well-established set of estimation techniques is available to identify the nature and scope of EJ conflicts

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