Environmental Justice in Permitting: State Innovations to Advance Accountability
22 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2013
Date Written: 2012
Over the past two decades, significant progress has been made to bring environmental justice (EJ) considerations to the forefront of domestic environmental permitting, siting, and policy-making activities. When the increasingly coordinated voice of community grassroots organizations is combined with more focused EJ-oriented efforts on the part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state regulatory agencies, and permitted industries, EJ is no longer an afterthought in the context of most developmental and industrial activities. However, ensuring meaningful consideration of EJ issues in the decision making which surrounds these development and industrial activities — such that outcomes may change and true fairness and equity are promoted — requires accountability on all sides. EJ accountability can be promoted through a variety of mechanisms, including through regulation, policy, and law designed to require or promote environmental health and data reporting, community consultation and outreach, demographic studies, corporate personnel training, community capacity building, relevant combinations of local, state, or federal agency workgroups, and the application of EJ screening tools. This Article reflects on the important role state agencies play in promoting fairness and transparency via the process of limiting and managing discharges to the environment through permitting or otherwise authorizing industrial and other developmental activities. This Article looks at several U.S. state policies and procedures that promote the consideration of EJ in environmental siting and permitting. This Article concludes that these states can lead the way for others in showing how to ensure that EJ considerations are more than a mere check box exercise, and that systems with higher degrees of accountability are the most appropriate in an arena so subjective that it is prone to be given inconsistent or ineffective consideration such as EJ.
Keywords: environment, states, innovation, permitting
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