Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898 Research Proposal

Pages: 35 (9648 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 20  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation - Environmental Issues


The objective of this work is to examine whether the issuance of Executive Order 12898 in 1994 has made a recognizable difference in assisting the ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE movement reach its goal of achieving environmental protection for all communities.

On February 11, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice: Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. This order directs each federal agency to develop an environmental justice strategy for identifying and addressing disproportionately high and adverse human health, or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations. Monies were allocated to federal agencies and state governments assisting communities to develop strategies toward local environmental problems.

Executive Order 12898 reinforces the 45-year-old Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI, which prohibits discriminatory practices in programs receiving federal funds. The order also focuses the spotlight back on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a 40-year-old law that set policy goals for the protection, maintenance and enhancement of the environment. NEPA's goal is to ensure for all Americans a "...safe, healthful, productive, and aesthetically and culturally pleasing environment, NEPA requires a detailed statement on the environmental effects of proposed federal actions that significantly affect the quality of human health." (paraphrased)

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Environmental Justice' refers to treatment of all races, cultures, and income levels that is equitable or quite simply that is fair in regards to the "...development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, programs and policies." (Environmental Justice Readings, NIEHS, 2009) Specifically, in regards to justice, or fair treatment within the 'environment' or all that surrounds the individual, including as stated by NIEHS:

TOPIC: Research Proposal on Environmental Justice & Executive Order 12898 the Assignment

your home, your school, and where you play. And if you have a job, it's also refers to where you work. It includes your friends' and grandparents' homes, and any other places that you visit. It includes the lake where you might swim or fish, the places where your food is grown or prepared, and even the places your drinking water travels through on its way to your home." (Environmental Justice Readings, NIEHS, 2009)

The chance that the individual has when they are among the minorities or the low-income to reside in areas that are environmentally clean and healthy is much less likely that for those not of an ethnic minority or low-income population. These environments are many times the location of toxic and hazardous waste sites which have been cited as being causative in cancer developing in populations residing in these areas and asthma has been cited in research findings to be disproportionately represented among Latino children and those reports are cited as well. The work of Robert D. Bullard entitled: "Environmental Justice in the 21st Century" states "...hardly a day passes without the media discovering some community or neighborhood fighting a landfill, incinerator, chemical plant, or some other polling industry. This was not always the case. Just three decades ago, the concept of environmental justice had not registered on the radar screens of environmental, civil rights, or social justice groups. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Memphis in 1968 on an environmental and economic justice mission for the striking black garbage workers. The strikers were demanding equal pay and better work conditions. Of course, Dr. King was assassinated before he could complete his mission." (1998) Bullard relates that another "landmark garbage dispute took place a decade later in Houston, when African-American homeowners in 1979 began a bitter fight to keep a sanitary landfill out of their suburban middle-income neighborhood. Residents formed the Northeast Community Action Group of NECAG."(1998) class action lawsuit was filed in the attempt to block the construction of the facility. The environmental justice movement began in Warren County, North Carolina "where a PCB landfill ignited protests and over 500 arrests." (1998) it was this even that "provided the impetus for an U.S. General Accounting Office study, 'Siting of Hazardous Waste Landfills and Their Correlation with Racial and Economic Status of Surrounding Communities'. It is related by Bullard that it was this study that "revealed that three out of four of the off-site, commercial hazardous waste landfills in Region 4 (which comprises eight states in the South) happen to be located in predominantly African-American communities, although African-Americans made up only 20% of the regions population." (Bullard, 1998) Stated to be even more important is the fact that this protest served to "put environmental racism on the map." (Bullard, 1998)

The protests which took place in Warren County additionally served in leading the 'Commission for Racial Justice' to produce "Toxic Waste and Race' which was the first of all national studies that correlated waste facility sites and demographic characteristics and demonstrated that "race was found to be the most potent variable in predicting where these facilities were located - more powerful than poverty, land values and home ownership." (Bullard, 1998)

The convergence of the social justice and environmental movements into the environmental justice movement is stated by Bullard to have been chronicled in 1990 in 'Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality'. The focus of this work was "African-Americans environmental activism in the South, the same region that gave birth to the modern civil rights movement.

What had started out as a local and often isolated community-based struggles against toxics and facility siting blossomed into a multi-issue, multi-ethnic, and multi-regional movement." (Bullard, 1998) Stated to be the most important event in the history of the movement was the 1991 First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit which "broadened the environmental justice movement beyond its early anti-toxics focus to include issues of public health, worker safety, land use, transportation, housing, resource allocation and community empowerment." (Bullard, 1998)

According to Bullard, "the question of environmental justice is not anchored in a debate about whether or not decision makers should tinker with risk management. The framework seeks to prevent environmental threats before they occur. The environmental justice framework incorporates other social movements that seek to eliminate harmful practices (discrimination harms the victims), in housing, land use, industrial planning, health care and sanitation services." (1998)

Bullard states that the impact realized from "redlining, economic divestment, infrastructure decline, deteriorating housing, lead poisoning, industrial pollution, poverty, and unemployment are not unrelated problems if one lives in an urban ghetto or barrio, rural hamlet, or reservation." (1998) General characteristics of the environmental justice framework are those stated as follows:

The environmental justice framework incorporates the principle of the "right" of all individuals to be protected from environmental degradation. The precedents for this framework are the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Fair Housing Act of 1968 and as amended in 1988, and Voting Rights Act of 1965;

The environmental justice framework adopts a public health model of prevention (elimination of the threat before harm occurs) as the preferred strategy. Impacted communities should not have to wait until causation or conclusive "proof" is established before preventive action is taken. For example, the framework offers a solution to the lead problem by shifting the primary focus from treatment (after children have been poisoned) to prevention (elimination of the threat via abating lead in houses);

The environmental justice framework shifts the burden of proof to polluters/dischargers who do harm, discriminate, or who do not give equal protection to racial and ethnic minorities, and other "protected" classes. Under the current system, individuals who challenge polluters must "prove" that they have been harmed, discriminated against, or disproportionately impacted. Few impacted communities have the resources to hire lawyers, expert witnesses, and doctors needed to sustain such a challenge;

The environmental justice framework would allow disparate impact and statistical weight, as opposed to "intent," to infer discrimination. Proving intentional or purposeful discrimination in a court of law is next to impossible, as demonstrated in Bean v. Southwestern Waste. It took nearly a decade after Bean v. Southwestern Waste for environmental discrimination to resurface in the courts; and the environmental justice framework redresses disproportionate impact through "targeted" action and resources. This strategy would target resources where environmental and health problems are greatest (as determined by some ranking scheme but not limited to risk assessment). Reliance solely on "objective" science disguises the exploitative way the polluting industries have operated in some communities and condones a passive acceptance of the status quo. Human values are involved in determining which geographic areas are worth public investments. In the 1992, EPA report Securing Our Legacy, the agencies describe geographic initiatives as "protecting what we love. (Bullard, 1998)


Bullard (1998) states that there are various forms of 'equity' including:

Procedural equity;

Geographic equity; and Social equity. (Bullard, 1998)

Procedural Equity' is stated by Bullard to refer to the 'fairness' question or "the extent that governing rules, regulations, evaluation criteria and enforcement are applied uniformly across the board and in a nondiscriminatory way." (1998)

Geographic Equity' refers to "location and spatial configuration of communities and their proximity to environmental hazards, noxious… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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