The Secondary Effects of Environmental Justice Litigation: The Case of West Dallas Coalition for Environmental Justice v. EPA
47 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2009 Last revised: 24 Jun 2014
Date Written: 2001
Environmental justice organizations across the country are pursuing redress for disproportionate exposure to environmental harm. While most of the litigation pursued in the name of environmental justice has not resulted in legal remedies, the secondary effects of these legal efforts have not been given sufficient attention. A cross-sectional approach, which holds the context in which organizations pursue litigation constant while scrutinizing whether legal remedies have been achieved, is quite common in the environmental justice literature. Such an approach ignores the unique characteristics of community organizations that influence their ability to adapt to complex decision-making environments. These characteristics, which include membership, problem definition, and resource constraints, shape the long-run strategies pursued by organizations and not their immediate success or failure in court. The case of West Dallas Coalition for Environmental Justice v. EPA illustrates an "increasing returns process," whereby the Coalition persisted in relying on a legal strategy that was perceived as sub-optimal from the standpoint of its members and local residents.
Keywords: environmental justice, organization theory, path dependence, litigation, West Dallas
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