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Environmental Justice

A brief overview of the concept, movement and resulting laws.

Intro. to Environmental Health


No one wants industrial or waste disposal facilities in their backyard.

The risk from environmental matters may be real or perceived. In many cases the real issues may be aesthetics, decreased property values, or quality of life issues that are difficult to quantify or regulate.

NIMBY Not in my backyard LULU Locally unwanted land use. These include contaminated sites, landfills, sewerage treatment plants, other waste treatment and disposal facilities.

Environmental Justice Movement

Grass-roots movement in early 1980s

Warren County PCB Landfill Residents felt landfill placed in county due to low SES and predominantly black population. Drew national attention to the issue large protests, citizens blocked roadways etc., 500 arrests

Toxic Waste and Race in the United States (United Church of Christ, 1987)

Race found to be the most potent variable in predicting location commercial hazardous waste sites as well as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

Environmental Injustice

Perceived or actual uneven distribution of environmental hazards due to inequalities of socioeconomic and political power. Postulated causes of environmental injustice include:

institutionalized racism

Treating the environment as a commodity

Unresponsive & unaccountable government Lack of resources and power in impacted communities

Several studies note that those who live in close proximity to contaminated sites, landfills etc. are disproportionately people of color or low income.

Environmental Racism

Refers to intentional or unintentional

racial discrimination in the enforcement of environmental rules and regulations the intentional or unintentional targeting of minority communities for the siting of polluting industries the exclusion of minority groups from public and private boards, commissions, and regulatory bodies

Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (EO 12898)

Executive Order 12898, issued by President Clinton on 2/11/94 directing all Federal agencies to implement environmental justice into its programs as follows: To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law each Federal agency shall 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 populations in the United States

Executive Order 12898; Goals

Promote enforcement of all health and environmental statutes in areas with minority populations and low-income populations Ensure greater public participation Improve research and data collection relating to the health of and environment of minority populations and low-income populations Identify differential patterns of consumption of natural resources among minority populations and low-income populations.

Subsistence Consumption Of Fish And Wildlife

EPA Action and Inactions

EPA issued EJ Strategy in April 1995 and defined EJ as follows: Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, income or education level in environmental decision-making. EPA Administrators issued a memorandum reaffirming the Agencys commitment to environmental justice in 2001 and 2005. In 2006, the Office of the Inspector General found that EPA Needs to Conduct Environmental Justice Reviews of Its Programs, Policies, and Activities and issued a report by the same name.

More recently

Whitehouse Forum on Environmental Justice December 2010 EPA Issued Plan EJ 2014 which is a strategy to help integrate environmental justice into EPA's day to day activities. It is not a rule or regulation.

March 1, 2011 Draft Implementation Plans Address

Incorporating Environmental Justice into Rulemaking

Considering Environmental Justice in Permitting

To enable disproportionately burdened communities to have full and meaningful access to the permitting process and to develop permits that address environmental justice issues to the greatest extent practicable under existing environmental laws. Advancing Environmental Justice through Compliance and Enforcement Supporting Community Based Action Programs

In essence: Implement a systematic process whereby EJ is considered in all critical actions as a matter of routine.

Administrators Statement
We want to put an end to the days when public health and economic potential are harmed by disproportionate exposure to pollution... Our continued success relies on close collaboration with our federal partners and strong input from the groups and individuals engaged at the community level. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson

Risk Management

Risk Management
Selection of an appropriate course of action using
Risk assessment Statutory and legal requirements Economic effects Social considerations Informed judgments

Driving Forces in Risk Management

Press Public

Perception Bureaucratic Imperatives Law Economics Science Ethics

Risk Communication

Factors Influencing Risk Perception

Risks perceived to be voluntary are more accepted than risks perceived to be imposed. Risks perceived to be under an individual's control are more accepted than risks perceived to be controlled by others. Risks perceived to be have clear benefits are more accepted than risks perceived to have little or no benefit. Risks perceived to be fairly distributed are more accepted than risks perceived to be unfairly distributed. Risks perceived to be natural are more accepted than risks perceived to be manmade. Risks perceived to be generated by a trusted source are more accepted than risks perceived to be generated by an untrusted source.
(Fischhoff et al. 1981)

Adapted from: Health Risk Communication Primer (ATSDR)

Seven Cardinal Rules of Risk Communication

(Covello and Allen 1988)

Accept and involve the public as a partner.

Your goal is to produce an informed public, not to defuse public concerns or replace actions.


Plan carefully and evaluate your efforts.

Different goals, audiences, and media require different actions.


Listen to the public's specific concerns.

People often care more about trust, credibility, competence, fairness, and empathy than about statistics and details.


Be honest, frank, and open.

Trust and credibility are difficult to obtain; once lost, they are almost impossible to regain.

Adapted from: Health Risk Communication Primer (ATSDR)

Seven Cardinal Rules of Risk Communication - 2


Work with other credible sources.

Conflicts and disagreements among organizations make communication with the public much more difficult.


Meet the needs of the media.

The media are usually more interested in politics than risk, simplicity than complexity, danger than safety.


Speak clearly and with compassion.

Never let your efforts prevent your acknowledging the tragedy of an illness, injury, or death. People can understand risk information, but they may still not agree with you; some people will not be satisfied.