Race, Ethnicity, and Air Pollution: New Directions in Environmental Justice
Environmental Law, 46:71 (2016)
46 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 2016
Environmental justice recognizes that low-income, minority communities are disproportionately affected by air pollution, and that this problem should be addressed through environmental law and policy. While it is easy to identify general relationships between poverty, demographic patterns, and air pollution, it is far more difficult to demonstrate that companies build industrial facilities at particular sites based on the racial or ethnic composition of the neighboring community, or even that a minority community would be subject to disproportionate health and welfare impacts from a particular facility. It is even more difficult to prohibit the construction of industrial facilities based on a disproportionate impact on low income, minority communities. This Article reviews the reported cases considering the discrimination-based claims of the environmental justice movement, in the context of permitting and environmental reviews for industrial facilities. It concludes that this approach has not been successful in limiting their construction and operation. Finally, the Article suggests that land use planning restrictions on industrial development based on air pollution loading would provide a more direct and viable means of protecting low income, minority communities.
Keywords: air pollution, environmental justice, race, ethnicity, civil rights, administrative law, environmental law, sustainability
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