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 6: Community involvement and substantive environmental justice

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


The US commitment to community involvement as a means of promoting environmental justice (EJ) is substantive and long-standing. At the presidential level, Executive Order 12898 on EJ directs each federal agency to take steps that ensure adequate and effective communication between decision makers and affected minority and low-income communities.1 At the congressional level, environmental legislation over the past 35 years has routinely included public participation provisions (Foster, 2008).2 At the agency or departmental level, the EPA has been the lead federal agency in incorporating community involvement into its regulatory decision making. In 2000, the agency published ‘The Model Plan for Public Participation,’ developed by the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), which presents a model for the core values, guiding principles, and critical elements of more expanded, meaningful public participation (US EPA, 2000b). The central guiding principles enumerated by NEJAC are designed to develop a public participation process that involves communities in decisions that affect their lives; provides participants with the information they need to engage in a meaningful way; and includes the promise that the public’s contribution will influence the final decision.3 In recent years, the EPA has reaffirmed its commitment to community involvement by making substantial additional investments to expand and improve its efforts to educate, communicate, engage, and partner with those who are impacted by environmental issues and concerns.4 The federal commitment to community involvement is echoed in the states.

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