Environmental Justice and Federalism
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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.
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Chapter 1: Federalism and the pursuit of environmental justice

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

Extract

While there is no universally accepted definition of environmental justice (EJ), there is general unanimity that the central concern revolves around the idea that minority and low-income individuals, communities, and populations should not be disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards. That is, low-income and minority communities should not be exposed to greater environmental risks than other communities through the siting of locally undesirable land uses (LULUs), the enactment of environmental and land use regulations, the enforcement of those regulations, and the remediation of polluted sites (Rechtschaffen et al., 2009). Unfortunately, in the context of environmental quality, a wide variety of empirical studies has documented that disparate impacts do, in fact, exist since minority and low-income communities are at disproportionate risk for environmental harm from the siting, regulation, and remediation of polluting activities. In December 2005, for example, the Associated Press released a major study of air pollution risk based on 2000 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and census data that found that black Americans were 79 percent more likely than whites to live in heavily polluted neighborhoods (Pace, 2005). Similarly, in a 1987 report, and a 2007 follow-up study, the United Church of Christ’s Commission on Racial Justice concluded that, nationwide, people of color are far more likely to live close to hazardous waste facilities, and that race is a significant and robust predictor of commercial hazardous waste facility locations (United Church of Christ, 1987; and Bullard et al., 2007).

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