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Toxic Racism: The Struggle for Environmental Justice


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The environmental justice movement & the principles of environmental justice

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Toxic Racism: The Struggle for Environmental Justice

  1. 1. Craig  Collins,  Ph.D.  ©  
  2. 2.  Can  be  defined  as:   "Any  government  or  industry   ac3on,  or  failure  to  act,  that   has  a  nega3ve   environmental  impact  which   dispropor3onately  harms   (whether  inten3onal  or  not)   individuals,  groups,  or   communi3es  based  on  race   or  color."  
  3. 3. 3  Forms  of  Inequity  (unfairness)      #1)    Geographic  Inequity:     DiscriminaBon  in  the  placement  of   environmental  hazards  in  predominantly   non-­‐white,  poor  locaBons:  minority   communiBes,  NaBve  American  land,   poor  countries.   LULUs  (locally  unwanted  land  uses:  i.e.,  landfills,  incinerators,  lead  smelters,  refineries,   etc.)  are  NOT  randomly  scaOered  around  the  country.  They  are  concentrated  in  areas   with  high  minority  populaBons,  low  incomes  &  low  property  values.   •  Incinerators  located  in  communi1es  with:  89%  more  non-­‐whites  than  na1onal  avg.;   15%  lower  income;  38%  lower  property  values.   •  Health  &  Risk  assessment  data  collected  for  permiGng  LULUs  do  not  take  into  account   cumulaBve  impact  &  synergisBc  effect  of  mul1ple  toxin  exposures  in  one  community.     •  Examples:  Altgeld  Gardens  Housing  Project  (S.  Chicago);  Bronx  (Hunts  Point);  San   Francisco  (Hunter’s  Point);  KeXleman  City;  West  Dallas;  “Cancer  Alley”  (Lousiana);  Indian   reserva1ons.  
  4. 4. #2)  Procedural  Inequity       Unfair,  discriminatory  procedures  for   making  &  enforcing  environmental  rules,   regulaBons  &  laws.   White/Anglo  communiBes  see  faster  acBon,  beOer  results  &  sBffer   penalBes  against  polluters  than  non-­‐white  communiBes.   •  Public  hearings  (&  documents)  are  o^en  only  in  English.   •  Penal1es  for  hazardous  waste  viola1ons  averaged  500%  higher  in  white   communi1es.   •  For  all  federal  environmental  laws  penal1es  were  46%  higher  in  white   communi1es.   •  Superfund  sites:  minority  communi1es  20%  longer  to  get  listed;  in  non-­‐ white  communi1es,  containment  chosen  7%  more  o^en  than  full  cleanup;   in  white  communi1es,  full  cleanup  22%  more  than  containment.  
  5. 5. #3)  Occupa<onal/Social  Inequity     The  discriminatory  toxic  impact  of  racial,  class,  ethnic,  cultural   biases  &  power  imbalances  upon  the  jobs,  homes,  schools   &  communiBes  of  lower  classes  &  people  of  color.   •  Minori1es  &  the  poor  are   exposed  to  more  environmental   hazards  in  their  jobs  (farm   workers,  heavy  industry,  etc.);   homes  (old  homes,  lead);  schools   (nearer  to  LULU’s—WTI   incinerator,  High  St.);  communi1es   (more  air  polluted  neighborhoods —near  freeways);  food  (fish  in   bay;  food  deserts;  malnutri1on).  
  6. 6. 5  Principles  of  Environmental  JusBce     1)  Guarantee  the  right  to  environmental  protecBon   •  Ins1tute  a  "Fair  Environmental  Protec1on  Act"  modeled  on  Civil   Rights  Acts.  It  should  address  intended  &  unintended  (de  jure  &  de   facto)  consequences  of  public  policies  &  industrial  prac1ces  that   have  disparate  impact  on  minori1es  &  other  vulnerable  groups.   Guarantee  equal  protec1on  under  all  environmental  laws.   2)  Prevent  harm  before  it  occurs     •  Environmental  Impact  Statements  (NEPA)  should  examine   disparate  impacts  on  vulnerable  communi1es.     3)  Shi]  the  burden  of  proof  to  polluters   •  All  en11es  applying  for  opera1ng  permits  that  would  produce   pollu1on  (landfills,  incinerators,  refineries,  etc.)  must  prove  that   their  opera1ons  will  not  dispropor1onately  affect  vulnerable  &   already  over-­‐exposed  popula1ons.     4)  Redress  exisBng  inequiBes   •  Dispropor1onate  impacts  on  minori1es  &  the  poor  must  be   redressed  by  targe1ng  policy,  ac1on  &  resources  to  clean  up  the   most  polluted  communi1es  &  improve  the  health  of  those  living   under  these  condi1ons.     5)  ELIMINATE  THE  INTENT  STANDARD     •  The  law  must  allow  disparate  impact  &  staBsBcal  weight  to  infer   discriminaBon  (regardless  of  proof  of  intent).  Proving  purposeful   intent  is  next  to  impossible  &  basically  irrelevant  to  those   suffering  its  outcomes.  
  7. 7. The  Intent  Standard   The  Intent  Standard  (established  by  the  1976  Supreme  Court   decision  Washington  v.  Davis)  requires  plainBffs  to  prove  a   perpetrator’s  discriminatory  “intent”  in  order  to  win  an  anB-­‐ discriminaBon  claim.     However,  because  contemporary  discrimina1on  is   frequently  structural  in  nature,  unconscious,  and/or  hidden   behind  pretexts,  the  showing  of  “intent”  becomes  a  nearly   impossible  burden  for  plain1ffs.   •  Environmental  Jus1ce  advocates  believe  the  courts  should   strike  down  the  intent  standard  &  replace  it  with  the   disparate  impact  standard,  requiring  plain1ffs  to  prove  that  a   policy  or  ac1on  causes  dispropor1onate  harm,  o^en  through   sta1s1cal  evidence.