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remedies for env racism

remedies for env racism

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Remedies for Environmental Racism: A View from the FieldAuthor(s): Luke W. ColeSource:
Michigan Law Review,
Vol. 90, No. 7 (Jun., 1992), pp. 1991-1997Published by:
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CORRESPONDENCE
RemediesforEnvironmentalRacism:AViewfrom the Field
Luke W Cole*
TheMichiganLawReview'srecentNote,RemedyingEnvironmen-talRacism,is animportantandtimely analysisof a civilrightslaw-basedapproachtoenvironmentaljusticework-one of the firsttoemergefromlegalacademia.2Itcorrectlypointsout thehighhurdles
*StaffAttorney,CaliforniaRuralLegalAssistance Foundation.A.B.1985,Stanford;J.D.1989,Harvard.-Ed. Iwouldlike to thankRalph SantiagoAbascal for hisinputon an earlierversion ofthiscorrespondence.1.RachelD.Godsil, Note,RemedyingEnvironmentalRacism,90MICH.L.REV.394(1991).2.See,e.g.,ReginaAustin & MichaelSchill,Black, Brown,Poor &Poisoned:MinorityGrass-rootsEnvironmentalismand theQuestforEco-Justice,1 KAN. J.L.&PUB. POLY.69(1991);KellyM.Colquette& ElizabethA.HenryRobertson,EnvironmentalRacism: TheCauses,Con-sequences,andCommendations,5TUL.ENVTL.L.J.153(1992).Lawyersand lawstudentsarebelatedlyenteringthefray: sociologists,urbanplanners,publichealthprofessionals,and activistshave written about thedisproportionate impactof environmental hazardsonpoor peopleandpeopleofcolor foryears.See,e.g.,J.E.Davies etal.,ProblemsofPrevalenceofPesticide ResiduesinHumans,2 PESTICIDEMONITORINGJ. 86(1968)(statingthat,insurveyin DadeCounty,Florida,blacks hadhigherDDTlevels than whitesinbloodand fattissue);A.MyrickFreemanIII,The DistributionofEnvironmentalQuality,in ENVIRONMENTALQUALITYANALYSIS243,264-69(AllenV.Kneese &Blair T. Bowereds.,1972)(findingairpollutiondistributedinequita-bly byincomeinKansasCity,St.Louis,andWashington,D.C.); KathrynR.Mahaffeyetal.,National EstimatesofBloodLead Levels: UnitedStates,1976-1980,307NEWENG.J. MED. 573(1982)(finding"significantlyhigher prevalence"ofleadpoisoninginchildrenwhosefamilieshadincomes under$6000comparedto those with incomesover$6000);U.S. GENERALACCOUNT-INGOFFICE,SITINGOFHAZARDOUSWASTELANDFILLSANDTHEIRCORRELATIONWITHRA-CIALANDECONOMICSTATUSOFSURROUNDINGCOMMUNITIES (1983)(notingthat three out offourcommercial hazardouswaste sites ineightsouthern states were locatedinmajorityblackcommunities,the fourthina38%blackcommunity);RobertD.Bullard,Solid WasteSitesandthe Black HoustonCommunity,53Soc.INQUIRY273(1983)(finding garbagedumpsinHoustonplaced disproportionatelyinblackneighborhoods);Robert Bullard&BeverlyHendrixWright,ThePoliticsofPollution:ImplicationsfortheBlackCommunity,47PHYLON71,77(1986) (not-ingthat blackneighborhoods,whichcompriseonequarterofHouston,housedsixof thecity'seightgarbageincinerators and allfivecity-ownedgarbagelandfills);COMMISSIONFORRACIALJUSTICE,UNITEDCHURCHOFCHRIST,TOXICWASTESANDRACEINTHEUNITEDSTATES(1987)(findingmeanminoritypercentageof areas with toxic wastesites four to five timesgreaterthan that of areas without toxicwastesites;raceamore reliablepredictorof location ofhazard-ous waste sites thanincome;threeofthefivelargesthazardous waste landfills inUnited Statesinblack or Latinocommunities);RebeccaVillones,Women inthe SiliconValley,inMAKINGWAVES:ANANTHOLOGYOF WRITINGSBY ANDABOUTASIANAMERICANWOMEN172,173(AsianWomen United ofCaliforniaeds.,1989)(findingpeopleofcolor,andespeciallyimmi-grantworkers,concentratedinmostdangerousandlowestpayingjobsinelectronicsindustry);CynthiaHamilton,Women,Home &Community:TheStruggleinan UrbanEnvironment,RACE,POVERTY&THEENVT.,April1990,at3(findingworkingclass women ofcolor moti-vated toorganizearound toxicthreats to theirneighborhoods).
1991
 
MichiganLaw Review
thattoxic racism's victims must overcometosuccessfullypursuesuchastrategy.Godsil'spiecewillhopefullyspurmoreacademic and on-the-groundworkinthisnascentlegalfield,whichIcall "environmen-talpovertylaw"-thatis,representinglow-income communities(often,inthisfield,communitiesofcolor)facingenvironmentalhazards.3Asapractitionerof environmentalpovertylaw whohasusedcivilrightslaw tofighta toxic wasteincinerator,Iwanttooffer aviewfrom outside theacademyonseveralofGodsil'spoints.The environmentalpovertylaw fieldisripeforwork.Studyafterstudyconfirms thatpoorpeopleandpeopleof color bearthedispro-portionateburdenofnotonlytoxic wastefacilities,butairpollution,leadpoisoning,pesticidepoisoning,andgarbage dumps.4Here in Cal-ifornia,our three ClassItoxic wastedumps-thedumps permittedtotakealmosteverychemicalknown toscience-are allsituatedincommunities ofpeopleof color.5 More difficultthanmerely identify-ingtheproblemiscoming upwithasolution to it.IagreewithGodsil's doubts aboutobtainingjudicialremediesundertheEqualProtection Clauseofthe Fourteenth Amendment orsection 1983 of the CivilRightsAct of 1866.6 Aside from the twocases the Notecites,7at least three other federal suits haveallegedviolation ofcivilrightslaws for avarietyof environmental abuses: thesitingof agarbagedump,8theoperationof agarbage dump,9and the
3. See LukeW.Cole,Empowermentas theKeyto EnvironmentalProtection:TheNeedforEnvironmentalPovertyLaw,19
ECOLOGY
L.Q.(forthcoming1992).4.SeePaul Mohai &BunyanBryant,EnvironmentalRacism:ReviewingtheEvidence,inRACEANDTHEINCIDENCEOFENVIRONMENTALHAZARDS: ATIMEFORDISCOURSE(BunyanBryant&Paul Mohaieds.,1992);see alsosources citedsupranote2.5.Those facilitiesare inButtonwillow,KernCounty,52%Latino and10%black;Ket-tlemanCity,KingsCounty,95%Latino;andWestmorland,ImperialCounty,72%Latino. U.S.
DEPT.OFCOMMERCE,1990 CENSUSDATA,TABLE 5:AGEBYRACEAND HISPANICORIGIN
[hereinafterCENSUSDATA].6.42 U.S.C.?1983(1988) (discussedinGodsil,supranote1,at408).7.East BibbTwiggs NeighborhoodAssn.v.Macon-BibbCountyPlanning&ZoningCommn.,706 F.Supp.880(M.D. Ga.), affd.,896F.2d1264(11thCir.1989);Beanv.Southwest-ernWasteMgmt.,482 F.Supp.673(S.D.Tex.1979),affd.withoutopinion,782 F.2d 1038(5thCir.1986).8.R.I.S.E.,Inc.v.Kay,768 F.Supp.1144(E.D.Va.1991).The courtrejectedtheallegationofResidentsInvolvedinSavingthe Environment(RISE),a biracialcommunityorganizationchallengingthesitingofaregionalgarbage dumpnear theircommunityinKing&QueenCounty,Virginia,that thecountyhad violated theircivilrightsbyplacingthelandfillina64%blackneighborhood.Thecourt,usingtheanalysisestablishedinVillage of Arlington Heightsv.Metropolitan DevelopmentHousingCorp.,429 U.S.252(1977),found that RISE had notpro-videdsufficient evidence of intentional discriminationbythecountygovernment,which,accord-ingto thecourt,wasmakingan economicandenvironmentaldecisionin the landfillsitingprocess.R.I.S.E.,768 F.Supp.at 1149-50.The case iscurrentlyonappeal.9.Bordeaux Action Comm.v.MetropolitanNashville,No.390-0214(M.D.Tenn. filed Mar.12,1990).Thissuitalleged improperoversightof a solid wastelandfill in a70%black commu-
1992
[Vol.90:1991

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