EVs as EJ? (forthcoming, volume 47, Harvard Environmental Law Review, 2023)
77 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2022 Last revised: 5 Jan 2023
Date Written: August 9, 2022
Electric vehicles (EVs) are everywhere. And they are cool – consumers love them. But EVs have justice implications – both positive and negative. The transition to EVs will have significant climate and environmental justice benefits for some communities of color, and negative impacts for others. EV batteries rely on minerals such as lithium and cobalt. Many of these minerals are located in or near Native American land, including sacred sites. A previously unseen balance of sacrifices emerges in the context of the transition to EVs – Native American communities should not bear the brunt of this transition. EVs should instead contribute to environmental justice. This article argues that the Bureau of Land Management should update its mining regulations in order to redress this imbalance, and bring mining regulations in line with environmental justice principles.
Environmental and racial justice have been central aims of the Biden Administration, but federal agencies, tasked with implementing Biden’s Executive Orders, operate in jurisdictional silos and have a poor history of implementing environmental justice initiatives. The recent Supreme Court case of West Virginia v EPA, and the major questions doctrine, may have a chilling effect on agencies’ justice transitions. This Article argues this should not be the case for updated mining rules issued by the BLM, which would better honor tribal sovereignty and support tribal priorities. In addition to updated mining rules, this Article recommends other agency actions which would elevate the voices of environmental justice communities, provide them with opportunities for economic justice, and ensure market and technological developments place these communities at the center of the transition to EVs.
Keywords: electric vehicles; environmental justice; racial justice; major questions doctrine; West Virginia v EPA
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