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Environment Magazine September/October 2008

 

March-April 2016

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Environmental Justice Delayed: Failed Promises, Hope for the Future

Environmental justice has reemerged on the U.S. federal policy agenda. After more than two decades of fits and starts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the Obama Administration has prioritized efforts to address the well-documented disparities in pollution burdens experienced by poor, minority, and tribal communities in the United States. Upon taking office in 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson wrote to EPA employees that the agency

must take special pains to connect with those who have been historically underrepresented in EPA decision making, including the disenfranchised in our cities and rural areas, communities of color, native Americans, people disproportionately impacted by pollution, and small businesses, cities and towns working to meet their environmental responsibilities.1

A year later, Jackson declared environmental justice as one of seven priorities that the agency would pursue under her leadership, alongside problems such as climate change, air and water quality, and chemical safety.2

Previous EPA Administrators have made similar pronouncements, but this time around the declarations are not just symbolic. Under Lisa Jackson's and now Gina McCarthy's leadership, the EPA has dedicated significant time and resources to develop Plan EJ 2014, an agency-wide initiative that the EPA describes as a “roadmap to help integrate environmental justice into its programs, policies, and activities.”3 Plan EJ 2014 includes new policy and technical guidance, information tools for both internal and external use, and new emphasis on broadening participation in agency decision making. Collectively, these efforts reflect an effort to instill more sensitivity and attentiveness within the agency to the environmental burdens experienced by many poor, minority, and tribal communities throughout the country. By any measure, these are important steps forward.

A collapsed building in an inner city neighborhood.

The very fact, however, that the EPA needed to take these measures also signifies that it had neglected to do so previously, despite an executive order on environmental justice (EO 12898) signed by President Clinton in 1994 that committed the federal government to “make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income population.”4 Indeed, the EPA has long been criticized for making empty pledges on environmental justice. The EPA during the George W. Bush Administration was even accused by its own Inspector General of undermining the very core of EO 12898 by shifting its implementation away from poor and minority communities.

Looking to the future, the key question is whether the policies and procedures that the EPA has developed as part of Plan EJ 2014 will create a new decision-making framework and organizational culture more responsive to environmental justice concerns. There is some reason for optimism. The new policies, procedures, and tools provide the opportunity for the EPA to routinize the consideration of environmental justice in its decision making. But there is also reasonable cause for skepticism about the ultimate impact of these new initiatives, in part because of the substantial limitations of an administrative-only approach and in part because the underlying causes of disproportionate environmental burdens cannot be addressed by EPA action alone.

Defining the Problem

The EPA defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”5 This conceptualization touches on three important principles commonly identified as central to environmental justice: distributive justice, procedural justice, and corrective justice. Distributive justice refers to the equitable distribution of environmental burdens and benefits, while procedural justice emphasizes the fairness and transparency of the decision-making process itself. Corrective justice refers to issues such as fairness in how punishments are doled out for violations of environmental and public health laws, as well as how government agencies use available legal tools to prevent and redress disparities. Environmental justice frameworks often also incorporate social justice, a much broader concept that emphasizes the roles of individuals and social arrangements as causes of environmental problems. This focus on social justice underscores the idea that environmental disparities are part of a broader set of racial, social, and economic problems that afflict society.

An oil boom in Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York.

These principles diverge from the way we typically think about environmental protection in the United States, and for that reason, achieving them presents difficult challenges to traditional environmental governance. U.S. environmental laws and regulations are mostly technocratic, risk-based programs designed to address the adverse health and ecological effects that arise as the result of pollution. But achieving outcomes consistent with the principles of distributive, procedural, and corrective justice is more about process and the allocation of government resources. And bringing about social justice is even broader, requiring attention to conditions in society that are far beyond the usual scope of environmental protection. Most importantly, issues of environmental inequity are intertwined with the contentious politics of race and class, and perceptions that the disproportionate environmental burdens experienced by many minority and low-income communities are rooted in deliberate discrimination.

Initial claims of class- and race-based disparities in local land-use decisions, particularly the siting of solid and hazardous waste disposal facilities, led to studies that sought to determine whether a pattern existed nationally. The United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice in 1987 published the first nationwide study, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. The researchers identified race as the most significant variable of those examined in association with the location of commercial hazardous waste facilities.6 This study both validated growing beliefs that race-based disparities in facility siting were real, not just perceived, and further mobilized activists to press for change.

Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States also created the impetus for what is now an extensive body of academic research that collectively aims to better understand and explain patterns of disparities. The lion's share of empirical work examines whether various types of locally unwanted land uses, including commercial hazardous waste facilities, solid waste landfills and incinerators, facilities that release chemical substances, and federal Superfund sites, are disproportionately located in poor and minority communities. Additional research looks beyond the location of facilities to levels of pollution, in an effort to establish a more direct link between environmental risk and the population attributes of communities hosting facilities, with many studies establishing strong positive correlations. Reviews of this literature have consistently found evidence to support claims of inequities.7 A third, more recent, direction of research focuses on disparities in policy implementation. Studies of the Superfund program, for example, have found that the EPA handles National Priorities List sites more slowly and adopts less stringent cleanup remedies when the sites are located in lower income and minority communities. Other research focuses on regulatory enforcement of pollution control laws such as the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), with some studies finding that the EPA and state governments perform less compliance monitoring and impose fewer punitive actions for violations toward regulated facilities when they are located in some traditional environmental justice communities.8

Collectively, this research has substantiated many of the early claims about the nature of class- and race-based disparities in environmental outcomes. Although the nature of the evidence is less uniform than conventionally presented by advocates (e.g., there are often different effects across race, ethnicity, and class), and there remain unresolved questions about the causes of disparities, the evidence of disparities is generally persuasive.

Policy Response

When environmental justice issues first reached the federal policy agenda in the early 1990s, there was some modest hope for Congressional action. John Lewis, the veteran civil rights activist and Democratic representative of Georgia, proposed new legislation to limit the siting of noxious facilities in already overburdened communities. Future Vice-President and then Tennessee Senator Al Gore introduced a companion measure in the Senate. However, these measures, and all subsequent legislation, were never seriously considered. Absent new laws, the primary venue for addressing environmental justice at the federal level has been through the administration of existing anti-discrimination and environmental laws.

The impetus for this administrative approach began with a series of reforms initiated by the Clinton Administration that included policy mandates, agency reorganization, new research and data collection programs, and increased emphasis on outreach and community capacity-building.9 The centerpiece of the Clinton Administration's efforts was EO 12898, which called on federal agencies to incorporate environmental equity considerations into their programs, policies, and activities “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law.” EO 12898 is extremely broad in scope and intent, prioritizing consideration of equity in standard setting, permitting, and rulemaking, improved enforcement of existing statutes, greater public participation in decision making, and targeted data collection on the environmental and health risks facing minority and low-income populations.

Thick smog in Los Angeles, California.

Symbolically, EO 12898 was unquestionably important. The executive order both justified activists' claims of disproportionate burdens, and signaled the seeming importance of the issue to the Clinton Administration. EO 12898 was also potentially significant from a policy standpoint. In contrast to most environmental regulations that establish performance criteria or standards, the mandates embodied in EO 12898 emphasize the achievement of environmental justice as both a process and an aspirational outcome. The executive order required federal agencies to consider the distributional impacts of their environmental decision making, and to open up the decision-making process itself to vulnerable communities. For the EPA, this in principle meant that future permits, rulemakings, enforcement actions, and other core regulatory activities taken to implement existing environmental laws were now to consider, and ideally take into account, environmental justice concerns.

In addition to pushing federal agencies to change their decision making, President Clinton envisioned the federal government pursuing environmental justice goals through the expanded use of existing civil rights law. As a companion to EO 12898, Clinton issued a memo that emphasized the use of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and particularly the provision that requires federal agencies to ensure that recipients of federal money “do not directly, or through contractual or other arrangements, use criteria, methods, or practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.” Given the important role of state governments in carrying out environmental policy, this was a potentially far-reaching proposition.

Evaluating Federal Policy

More than two decades have passed since President Clinton issued EO 12898. What can we say about its impact? And, more broadly, has federal policy to address the disproportionate environmental burdens experienced by many poor, minority, and tribal communities been effective? Stated simply, the record is not particularly good. Government auditors, academic scholars, and investigative journalists alike have consistently and repeatedly concluded that government efforts, especially those of the EPA, have fallen short of expectations.

Despite the hope of many environmental justice advocates that antidiscrimination laws might be effectively used to pursue environmental justice goals, history has proven otherwise.10 The EPA, for example, has long been criticized for how its Office of Civil Rights handles Title VI complaints under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These complaints are typically brought by community organizers claiming that a state government action—usually the granting of a permit to a newly proposed facility—creates a disparate impact, thereby violating their civil rights. A recent Center for Public Integrity study tracked the outcomes of the 265 Title VI complaints filed with the EPA from 1996 to 2013, and found that 80% were dismissed, most without a comprehensive investigation. Perhaps, most strikingly, the EPA Office of Civil Rights has yet to reach a formal finding of a Title VI violation in a case involving a permit.11

EO 12898 and other federal policies also envisioned that environmental justice concerns would be considered in the implementation of existing environmental laws. Analysts, however, have consistently found that the federal government has failed to deliver. One survey of the early efforts of federal agencies to fulfill their obligations under EO 12898 concluded that “integrating EJ [environmental justice] into program design has been relatively rare, and comprehensive assessment and analysis exceedingly uncommon. Based upon the agency responses, there appears to be only a few instances in which agencies have incorporated EJ principles and protections into programmatic design.”12

Given the central role that it has in implementing environmental and public health laws, much of the criticism has centered on the EPA. For example, the EPA's own Inspector General concluded in 2004 that, 10 years after EO 12898, the agency had yet to consistently integrate environmental justice into its day-to-day operations, and had failed to take the critical initial steps to define the populations covered by EO 12898 and to develop criteria for determining disproportionate impacts.13 Other investigations of specific areas of EPA decision making have revealed additional shortcomings, including the failure of the agency to routinely consider environmental equity in rulemaking,14 to consider distributional impacts on poor and minority populations as part of cost–benefit analyses,15,16 to regularly and clearly consider environmental justice in federal environmental impact statements,16 to target community capacity building resources to communities most burdened with toxic emissions,17 and to assure that the state agencies it oversees are directing enforcement attention to these areas.18

A recent analysis that examined EPA programs, policies, and procedures over the past two decades reached similar conclusions. Among the key findings were that the agency has (1) failed to write permits under major pollution control statutes in a way that regularly considers impacts on low-income and minority communities;19 (2) rarely considered the unequal impacts of pollution on different groups when setting standards;20 (3) only recently devoted attention to environmental justice in its economic analysis of proposed regulations;21 (4) historically been ineffective in broadening public participation to low-income and minority communities affected by its decisions;22 and (5) not targeted regulatory enforcement (or required that states implementing federal laws do so) to pollution sources located in minority and low-income communities.23 The analysis further concluded that these specific problems were compounded by slow development of clear policy guidance, poor coordination among EPA regional and state offices, and a lack of sustained agency leadership.24

Plan EJ 2014 and the EPA's Renewed Commitment

Given this disappointing past, what are the prospects for the future? Developments in the last few years provide some cause for optimism. Following through on Lisa Jackson's commitment to make environmental justice a top priority, the EPA developed Plan EJ 2014, an agency-wide initiative to integrate equity issues into its core regulatory activities, as well as its research, legal, civil rights, and community outreach programs.

As part of Plan EJ 2014, the EPA has developed important new policy and technical guidance regarding permitting, rulemaking, and enforcement. On permitting, the agency has created new procedures to enhance the involvement of communities overburdened by environmental risks. Each EPA regional office has developed plans that specify how it will engage with communities potentially affected by the granting of a new permit, and issued a set of best practices for permit applicants. With respect to rulemaking, the agency in 2015 issued final guidance to be consulted when analyzing environmental justice issues as part of a regulatory action. The purpose of the guidance is to help rulemakers “identify and address potentially disproportionate environmental and public health impacts experienced by minority populations, low-income populations, and/or indigenous peoples.”25 Plan EJ 2014 also includes a number of initiatives that the agency has pursued to more fully incorporate equity considerations into enforcement priority-setting and decisions, including new internal reporting and tracking requirements and a policy to integrate environmental justice concerns into assessments for criminal investigations.26

Plan EJ 2014 also consists of efforts to strengthen technical and organizational capacity in low-income and minority communities, to develop new scientific and research tools, to provide legal assistance to agency decision-makers on how to better use their existing discretion under environmental statutes, and to develop informational tools and other resources to enhance both internal decision making and the ability of communities to work with the agency.27 Last, the EPA commissioned an independent review of its handling of cases in its enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,28 and recently released a plan that committed the agency's Office of Civil Rights to programmatic and procedural reforms.29

The development of Plan EJ 2014 is unmistakably a major step forward. The EPA has taken serious strides to translate the principles and policy directives articulated in EO 12898 and other federal environmental justice pledges into a concrete and comprehensive strategy. For the first time since the signing of EO 12898 more than 20 years ago, there is reason to believe that environmental justice considerations will more frequently become a substantive part of federal decision making. Although these new policies cannot undo past inequities, they can lead to fairer and more transparent decisions in the future. The EPA during the Obama Administration deserves real credit for finally developing the types of policy and technical guidance documents that have been sorely lacking in previous attempts to implement EO 12898. This guidance could go a long way toward ensuring that environmental justice is regularly and consistently addressed by providing permit writers, rulemakers, and enforcement officials with the information and tools they need to assess and, if necessary, take into account equity when making their decisions.

Plan EJ 2014 also has the strong endorsement of EPA leadership. The development of the strategy was coordinated directly out of former Administrator Jackson's office, which sent a clear signal through the agency that it was an important policy and political priority. Moreover, there was a deliberate effort to get “buy-in” from staff throughout the programmatic (e.g., air, water, waste, toxics) and functional (e.g., enforcement, policy, research, legal, etc.) offices, as well as in the agency's regional offices. The involvement of the full agency should foster improved policy coordination of environmental justice goals as Plan EJ 2014 transitions from development into implementation, and may bring about a shift in organizational culture toward more attention and sensitivity to the issue.

A woman wears a mask to protect against pollution.

Although it is far too early to reach any firm conclusions about the impact of Plan EJ 2014, there are early indications that it is making a difference. In August 2015, the EPA released the final version of its Clean Power Plan, President Obama's signature policy to address climate change that, for the first time, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil-fueled power plants. The final rule included a 30-page section, “Community and Environmental Justice Considerations,” which summarized in a general way the potential benefits and adverse impacts of the proposed rule on vulnerable communities, as well as steps that the agency took as part of the rulemaking process to engage with and incorporate feedback from these communities. In addition, the EPA completed environmental justice analyses to support the Clean Power Plan. Using its newly developed EJSCREEN tool, the EPA characterized the demographic and environmental conditions around each of the power plants potentially regulated by the rule.30 The reports were created both for informational purposes and to assist states in designing their Clean Power Plan implementation strategies. There is also a requirement that states actively engage with the public in developing their implementation plans, and the EPA specifically “encourages states to identify communities that may be currently experiencing adverse, disproportionate impacts of climate change and air pollution, how state plan designs may affect them, and how to most effectively reach out to them.”31 Collectively, these measures reflect a significant effort by the EPA to incorporate environmental justice considerations into both the process and substance of the Clean Power Plan, as called for in its new guidance created as part of Plan EJ 2014.

Recent EPA rulemakings in other areas also suggest an increased level of attention to environmental justice concerns. For example, in September 2015, the agency for the first time in 20 years updated the Worker Protection Standard for agricultural pesticide handlers. The revised standard strengthens safety requirements and training protocols, and increases age limits for pesticide workers, all of which greatly affect the disproportionate number of minorities employed in the agricultural sector.32 In the same month, the EPA finalized a Clean Air Act rule on the monitoring of toxic air emissions that requires oil refineries to install “fence-line” monitors to detect and report ambient levels of benzene. In announcing the new requirements, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy noted that the rule “delivers on EPA's commitment to environmental justice by reducing toxic air pollutants that impact families living near refineries, by requiring, for the first time ever in an EPA air rule, monitoring of emissions at the fence line and corrective action if standards are exceeded.”33 As a final example, the EPA is more regularly considering environmental justice in its evaluations of new rules. Although historically the EPA at best gave cursory attention to distributional impacts,16,34 this has started to change. According to one assessment, the agency performed less than two environmental justice analyses of rules per year from 1995 to 2009, but this increased tenfold between 2010 and 2012.35

The early dividends of Plan EJ 2014 also extend to regulatory enforcement. Every three years, the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) selects national enforcement initiatives to set priorities for the agency's enforcement activities. During fiscal years 2011–2013, one of OECA's priorities was to reduce illegal emissions of toxic air pollutants. As part of this effort, EPA regional enforcement officials were required to develop a plan that incorporated environmental justice into the targeting of stationary sources (e.g., power plants, factories) for inspections. In an analysis of this initiative, the EPA Inspector General reported that every EPA region had fulfilled this obligation. The Inspector General did point out that state agencies, which perform the bulk of inspections, were not covered by the program, but the efforts at the EPA regional level show progress along the lines called for in Plan EJ 2014.36

Looking Forward

The EPA during the Obama Administration has made significant progress through Plan EJ 2014 to develop new policies and procedures, which, if consistently implemented, will make the agency more attentive to and effective in addressing environmental disparities. But implementation is by no means automatic, and there are several reasons to be cautious about the ultimate impact of the recent initiatives.

First, it is important to underscore that Plan EJ 2014 is a declaration of agency strategy and policy. In this respect, it is very comprehensive, certainly more so than any previous effort. But, the real test of its impact will be on how the EPA uses the new policies and procedures in future decision making. Will EPA permit writers follow through on their stated plans to actively engage with residents in low-income and minority communities? Will new rules under laws such as the CAA and CWA be promulgated and analyzed in a way that fully considers the distributional impacts on poor, minority, and tribal populations? Will future enforcement priorities take into account the characteristics of the communities living near regulated sources of pollution? Will the EPA actively work to coordinate the activities of its regional offices and the state agencies whose programs it oversees to be sure that they too incorporate environmental justice into their regulatory activities? These are just a few of the questions that can only be answered in the years to come.

Second, future Presidents and EPA Administrators can easily change course. Plan EJ 2014 could be maintained in full, kept in part, or abandoned (either formally or informally) altogether. In fact, in many respects, this has been the story of federal policy for much of the last 20 years.

After the initial flurry of activity subsequent to EO 12898, environmental justice issues largely lost their place on the federal government's policy agenda. During the second half of the Clinton Administration, environmental justice waned in importance. There was further and more systematic retrenchment during the George W. Bush Administration. Although the Bush EPA did not rescind President Clinton's executive order as some feared might happen, it did retreat from its core principles. In August 2001, EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman issued a memorandum to agency leadership that emphasized that environmental justice was not simply about addressing disproportionate risks for poor and minority groups. The EPA's Office of Environmental Justice amplified this view a year later when it directed agency management to recognize that “the environmental justice program is not an affirmative action program or a set-aside program designed specifically to address the concerns of minority communities and/or low-income communities. To the contrary, environmental justice belongs to all Americans.”37 These policy statements challenged the very meaning of environmental justice, and the EPA's own Inspector General accused the agency of undermining the spirit and purpose of EO 12898.

Environmental justice has clearly regained a prominent place on the EPA's agenda during the Obama Administration as epitomized by Plan EJ 2014. But it is too early to tell whether this is a short-term apex, or the beginning of a sustained commitment. As the history of environmental justice policy makes evident, priorities come and go for federal agencies, both within and across presidential administrations. This ebb and flow presents a particular challenge when there is no legislative basis to a policy effort. Policies and programs with legislative roots are subject to regular evaluation as part of the Congressional oversight and appropriations process. Moreover, many legislatively based programs enable external stakeholders to perform their own oversight through participation in the rulemaking process and by empowering them through citizen standing provisions to bring lawsuits about agency activity to the courts. This has proven a particularly potent access point for environmental advocates (and of course those with opposing interests) when it comes to EPA implementation of laws that govern air pollution, water pollution, and hazardous and solid waste management, among other areas. Without this lever, it is more difficult for stakeholders, and especially the poor and minority communities with the most to lose and gain, to hold the EPA's and other federal agencies' “feet to the fire” on pursuing environmental justice goals.

A thick haze around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

It is also critically important to consider the federal government's initiatives, regardless of how well intended or effectively implemented, in context of the enormous scope of the environmental justice problem itself. For the past three decades, there has been an expectation that the federal government can and should redress the disproportionate risks experienced by poor, minority, and tribal communities. The federal government has an important role, to be sure, and it can and should improve its efforts along the lines that have been previously discussed. But it is also unrealistic (and even unfair) to expect the EPA and other federal agencies to “solve” the problem. State and local government agencies are vital too. State agencies are responsible for issuing and enforcing permits in most areas of pollution control, and local governments have primary jurisdiction over most land use decisions.38 Any effective government response must then involve these lower levels of government.

We must also recognize that the causes of the disproportionate risk burdens facing many low-income and minority communities cannot be reduced to the decisions of government officials alone. Disparities in environmental risks also result from decisions made by private-sector actors, whether motivated by intentional discrimination or other factors. More broadly, environmental justice problems are deeply rooted in larger social phenomena, including housing discrimination, income inequality, and political disenfranchisement. For these reasons, environmental justice activists point to the importance of not just changes in the content of government decisions, but the adoption of a new paradigm of decision making altogether that is more democratic and participatory, that empowers communities to more effectively engage, and that incorporates changes to the very social structure of American society.39 In addition, many in the environmental justice movement view the disproportionate risks they experience through the lens of racial, gender, and class discrimination, and, as a consequence, environmental justice activists frequently call not just for improved environmental protection, but also for social justice.40

For these reasons, the federal government is simply limited in what it can alone achieve when it comes to generating a more equitable distribution of environmental burdens and amenities. There is only so much that the agencies such as the EPA can do to modify patterns of disproportionate burdens that have been created by long-running social, economic, and political processes, particularly when they do not have the missions or tools to address the underlying phenomena. This is not to say that the EPA should be exculpated from doing what it can with the instruments it does have to mitigate the creation of new or the exacerbation of existing disparities. A fully and consistently implemented Plan EJ 2014 can begin to produce a fairer and more just set of environmental outcomes for vulnerable populations across the United States.

A garbage dump creates an environmental hazard on a hillside.

NOTES

1. L. Jackson, “Opening Memorandum to EPA Employees,” Memorandum to All EPA Employees, January 23, 2009.

2. L. P. Jackson, “Seven Priorities for EPA's Future,” Memorandum to All EPA Employees, January 12, 2010.

3. Environmental Protection Agency, EJ Plan 2014 (Washington, DC: Office of Environmental Justice, September 2011), 4.

4. Executive Order 12898 of February 11, 1994, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” Federal Register 59 (32), 7629.

5. Environmental Protection Agency, EJ Plan 2014 (Washington, DC: Office of Environmental Justice, September 2011), 3.

6. United Church for Christ Commission on Racial Justice, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States: A National Report on the Racial and Socioeconomic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites (New York, NY, 1987).

7. For reviews of this literature, see J. Chakraborty, J. A. Maantay, and J. D. Brender, “Disproportionate Proximity to Environmental Health Hazards: Methods, Models, and Measurement,” American Journal of Public Health 101, no. S1 (2011): S27–36, and E. J. Ringquist, “Assessing Evidence of Environmental Inequities: A Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 24, no. 2 (2005): 223–47.

8. For a summary, see D. M. Konisky, Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015).

9. This reorganization included the establishment of a dedicated environmental justice office within the EPA, the placement of environmental justice coordinators in Washington, DC, and in the EPA's regional offices, the formation of an interagency committee with representation of departments and agencies throughout the federal government, and a federal advisory committee.

10. J. H. Colopy, “The Road Less Traveled: Pursuing Environmental Justice Through Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Stanford Environmental Law Journal 13 (1994):125–89; and B.C. Mank, “Is There a Private Cause of Action Under EPA's Title VI Regulations? The Need to Empower Environmental Justice Plaintiffs,” Columbia Journal of Environmental Law 24 (1999): 1–61.

11. K. Lombardi, T. Buford, and R. Greene, “Environmental Racism Persists, and the EPA is One Reason Why,” Center for Public Integrity, August 3, 2015, Washington, DC.

12. D. Binder, et al., “A Survey of Federal Agency Response to President Clinton's Executive Order No. 12898 on Environmental Justice,” Environmental Law Reporter 31 (2001): 11133.

13. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General, EPA Needs to Consistently Implement the Intent of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice. Report No. 2004-P-00007 (Washington, DC, March 1, 2004).

14. B. J. Gerber, “Administering Environmental Justice: Examining the Impact of Executive Order 12898,” Policy and Management Review 2, no. 1 (2002): 41–61.

15. H. S. Banzhaf, “Regulatory Impact Analyses of Environmental Justice Effects.” Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law 27, no. 1 (2011): 1–30.

16. S. P. Vajjhala, A. Van Epps, and S. Szambelan, “Integrating EJ into Federal Policies and Programs: Examining the Role of Regulatory Impact Analyses and Environmental Impact Statements,” RFF Discussion Paper 08-45 (Washington, DC: Resources for the Future, 2008).

17. S. P. Vajjhala, “Building Community Capacity? Mapping the Scope and Impacts of the EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program,” Research in Social Problems and Public Policy 18 (2010): 353–81.

18. D. M. Konisky, “The Limited Effects of Federal Environmental Justice Policy on State Enforcement,” Policy Studies Journal 37, no. 3 (2009): 475–96.

19. E. Gauna, “Federal Environmental Justice Policy in Permitting,” in D. M. Konisky, ed., Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), 57–83.

20. D. S. Noonan, “Assessing the EPA's Experience with Equity in Standard Setting,” in D. M. Konisky, ed., Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), 85–116.

21. R. J. Shadbegian and A. Wolverton, “Evaluating Environmental Justice: Analytic Lessons from the Academic Literature and in Practice,” in D. M. Konisky, ed., Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), 117–42.

22. D. M. Daley and T. C. Reames, “Public Participation and Environmental Justice: Access to Federal Decision Making,” in D. M. Konisky, ed., Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), 143–71.

23. D. M. Konisky and C. Reenock, “Evaluating Fairness in Environmental Regulatory Enforcement,” in D. M. Konisky, ed., Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), 173–203.

24. D. M. Konisky, “Federal Environmental Justice Policy: Lessons Learned,” in D. M. Konisky, ed., Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), 233–57.

25. Environmental Protection Agency, Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of a Regulatory Action, May 2015, 1. There is also companion technical guidance: Environmental Protection Agency, Draft Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis, April 2013.

26. Environmental Protection Agency, EJ Plan 2014 (Washington, DC: Office of Environmental Justice, September 2011).

27. Environmental Protection Agency, EJ Plan 2014 (Washington, DC: Office of Environmental Justice, September 2011).

28. Deloitte Consulting, Evaluation of the EPA Office of Civil Rights, 2011.

29. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Civil Rights, External Compliance and Complaints Program Strategic Plan Fiscal Year 2015–2020, Final Draft for Comment, September 10, 2015.

30. Environmental Protection Agency, “EJ Screening Report for the Clean Power Plan,” July 30, 2015; and Environmental Protection Agency, “EJ Screening Report for the Clean Power Plan: Federal Plan Requirements,” July 30, 2015.

31. “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units,” 40 CFR part 60, p.46, August 3, 2015.

32. T. Stecker, “New Rules Boost Agency's Environmental Justice Efforts,” Greenwire, September 30, 2015.

33. Quoted in J. Mandel, “EPA Final Rule Brings Fence-Line Refinery Monitoring,” EnergyWire, September 30, 2015.

34. H. Spencer Banzhaf, “Regulatory Impact Analyses of Environmental Justice Effects.” Journal of Land Use & Environmental Law 27, no. 1 (2011): 1–30.

35. R. J. Shadbegian and A. Wolverton, “Evaluating Environmental Justice: Analytic Lessons from the Academic Literature and in Practice,” in D. M. Konisky, ed., Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), 117–42.

36. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Regions Have Considered Environmental Justice When Targeting Facilities for Air Toxics Inspections (Washington, DC: Office of Inspector General, February 26, 2015).

37. Quoted in Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General, EPA Needs to Consistently Implement the Intent of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice (Washington, DC, 2004).

38. Although outside the scope of this essay, several studies have catalogued and analyzed policy efforts in the U.S. states on environmental justice. See, for example, E. J. Ringquist and D. H. Clark, “Issue Definition and the Politics of State Environmental Justice Policy Adoption.” International Journal of Public Administration 25, no. 2 &3 (2002): 351–89, 2002; E. J. Ringquist and D. H. Clark, “Local Risks, States' Rights, and Federal Mandates: Remedying Environmental Inequities in the U.S. Federal System,” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 29, no. 2 (1999): 73–93; S. Bonorris, Environmental Justice for All: A Fifty State Survey of Legislation, Policies, and Cases, 4th ed. (American Bar Association and Hastings College of the Law, 2010); and Nicholas Targ, “The States Comprehensive Approach to Environmental Justice,” in D. N. Pellow and R. J. Brulle, eds., Power, Justice, and the Environment (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 171–84.

39. L. W. Cole and S. R. Foster, From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (New York, NY: New York University Press, 2001), 16.

40. D. E. Taylor, “The Rise of the Environmental Justice Paradigm: Injustice Framing and the Social Construction of Environmental Discourses,” American Behavior Scientist 43, no. 4 (2000): 508–80.

David M. Konisky is an Associate Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.       

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