Shutting Down Poletti: Human Rights Lessons from Environmental Victories

21 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2019

See all articles by Rebecca M. Bratspies

Rebecca M. Bratspies

City University of New York - School of Law

Date Written: December 28, 2018


Human rights enjoy a presumption of inviolability that at least arguably “trumps” other public goods. To the extent that sustainable development has become bogged down in conventional economic thinking, a human rights analysis may offer a way to cut through “business-as-usual” thinking. As such, human rights can create a space for developing innovative solutions to thorny social problems like environmental injustice, particularly the unequal distribution of environmental harms across society. Because the human right to a healthy environment is “claimed not granted,” there is value in examining what environmental activists actually do on the ground, and how they shape their environmental claims. This principle remains true even for actors who do not themselves make human rights claims, and do not even view themselves as human rights actors. This article examines one such situation, using the successful campaign to shut the Charles A. Poletti Power Plant in Astoria, Queens, to glean human rights and environmental advocacy lessons for those who would vindicate environmental rights in an unequal world.

Keywords: Poletti, power plant, environmental justice, human rights, sustainability, climate change, power generation, energy, electricity, New York City, FERC, siting, pollution, PM2.5, particulate, oil

JEL Classification: K32, K33, K23, K00, R52, Q40

Suggested Citation

Bratspies, Rebecca M., Shutting Down Poletti: Human Rights Lessons from Environmental Victories (December 28, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Rebecca M. Bratspies (Contact Author)

City University of New York - School of Law ( email )

2 Court Square
Long Island City, NY 11101
United States

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