- ABA Groups
- Resources for Lawyers
- Career Center
- About Us
The environmental justice movement has been called the combination of two of the greatest movements of the twentieth century, namely the civil rights movement and the environmental movement. Environmental justice stands for the proposition that all people have the right to clean air, clean water, and clean land, and that those potentially affected by environmental decisions should have a meaningful say in the process, regardless of race, income, or ethnicity.
The story of the Adams Center landfill site has much to say about environmental justice issues, the building of alliances, and the roles of litigation and communication.
The vision of environmental justice is the development of a holistic, community-based, participatory, and integrative model for achieving just, healthy, and sustainable communities-urban, rural, and tribal.
The primary mission of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice is to enforce the nation's environmental and natural resource laws and defend federal agencies that carry out policies and programs to implement these and other laws.
The Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) at the EPA attempts to deliver environmental justice with smart enforcement—proactively planning, budgeting, and managing programs to efficiently apply and deliver them where needed.
Integrating the issue of environmental justice into the federal government's decision-making processes is by no means a simple matter, nor is it near completion. This major undertaking has moved along in fits and starts. Currently, however, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is making great strides by requiring for the first time, for example, that each regional and headquarters office develop and implement comprehensive environmental justice action plans.
Equal protection of the law lies at the core of environmental justice, pulling together diverse themes of fairness in decision-making processes and substantive outcomes. Because contemporary laws and policies do not explicitly distinguish on the basis of race, ethnicity, or color, courts must now answer the question of whether differential outcomes have their source in an impermissible intent.
Monique Harden is the co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, a nonprofit law firm that provides a full range of litigation and advocacy services to communities suffering from environmental degradation. The organization is a project of the Tides Center. Ms. Harden's successful legal advocacy on behalf of communities of color has resulted in important environmental justice victories.
Three of the most important issues confronting Americans in this new century, aside from national security, are health, economic development, and the environment. All of these find a nexus and confluence in the area of national concern referred to today as environmental justice.
Several years ago, at an environmental justice conference sponsored by the University of Colorado, I put forth the proposition that the environmental justice movement needs Indians more than Indians need the movement. I still think this idea is true. I also said then, and believe now, that the same idea holds true for the mainstream environmental movement. People in both movements can benefit from Indian perspectives, grounded in tribal cultures, on how human societies should relate to the nonhuman, living communities with whom we share this Mother Earth.
In New Mexico, two of the most common types of facilities adversely affecting minority and low-income communities are solid waste disposal facilities and mining operations. Two cases highlight the struggles involving such facilities.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) mission is to protect, preserve, and improve New York's environment and natural resources in order to enhance the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being. Equality and equal protection are inherent to our mission. With the emergence of the environmental justice movement, the Department and other agencies across the nation are taking a closer look at equality and equal protection in environmental laws, policies, and programs as they relate to minority and low-income communities.
A private lawyer representing a private client is seldom a crusader. When environmental justice is relevant to a particular matter—the client proposes to build a facility and engages the lawyer to help secure necessary governmental approvals, for example—the lawyer's primary duty must be to the client.
Like the civil rights movement that preceded it, the U.S. environmental justice movement was propelled into mainstream political discourse and popular consciousness by grassroots activism. Long before the terms "environmental racism" or "environmental justice" were coined, ordinary men and women were thrust into extraordinary leadership roles as they struggled against environmental degradation in their communities and the decision makers who controlled their environment.
We are at a time in history when civil rights are protected by law and racial slurs are considered matters of great offense. Ironically, however, environmental attacks on people with low incomes and people of color still occur on a daily basis without condemnation or prosecution.
Environmental justice issues facing Native American communities often are markedly different from those confronting other low-income, minority populations, due to three primary factors: the tribes' unique status as sovereign entities; resulting government-to-government consultation requirements, and federal trust responsibilities to tribes.
Representative John Lewis of Georgia has been described as one of the most courageous people ever produced by the civil rights movement.