Environmental justice and environmental racism are not the same, although both concepts are closely related. Environmental justice is a response to environmental racism. People, especially minorities with low socioeconomic statuses, have faced discrimination for decades. Because of this, they suffer the long-term effects of decisions that hurt the environment and put their health at risk. Environmental justice is designed to stop, prevent, or reverse these effects.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), environmental justice is the fair treatment and involvement of all people equally, including the same level of protection from hazards. Because of widespread discrimination, groups that have been discriminated against find themselves at greater risk from hazards. For example, studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conducted in the early 1980s exposed the fact that African Americans were much more likely to live in areas near hazardous waste landfills.
The impact of environmental racism can affect communities for generations, which is why many are resorting to legal action to address it. With the right legal guidance, it is possible to create systemic change and protect your community.
History of Environmental Justice
According to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, the first environmental justice case happened in 1979, when residents of an East Houston community claimed that placing a garbage dump in their largely black neighborhood was a violation of their civil rights and was racially motivated. Being located near a garbage dump can have social, economic, and health-related problems. Taking legal action was one of many methods that were used to address environmental racism with varying results.
While not exactly the same, environmental racism is a type of environmental injustice. According to the State of Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, environmental racism includes three different types of inequities: geographic, procedural, and occupational and social. Geographic inequity occurs when environmental hazards, such as landfills and refineries, are discriminatorily placed in non-white or poor communities. Procedural inequity occurs when discriminatory procedures are used in the creation or enforcement of environmental regulations and laws. Occupational and social inequity occurs when the disparities in a community’s power and wealth increases exposure to environmental hazards.
All of this creates a significant financial impact where these groups have higher health-care expenses, lower-wage earnings, and difficulty in improving their situation. These groups tend to be of a lower socioeconomic status, which limits their options for recourse or for addressing their related problems.
Fighting for Your Rights
You are entitled to environmental justice without worry that your race, color, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status will infringe on your rights and ability to participate or follow related laws. You are entitled to live and work free from environmental racism. When these rights are violated, it is your right to pursue legal action. In many cases, this comes in the form of a lawsuit against the party responsible.
Your Potential Financial Award
The types and amount of compensation that you could possibly recover will vary depending on the specific nature of your case and the party you sue. The more damaging the incident, the more compensation is possible. In addition, if you sue parties with more access to capital assets, it is possible that you could receive more compensation than if you sued an individual without much in terms of tangible assets.
If you decide to pursue a legal case, your environmental justice lawyer can give you more insight in terms of what you could possibly receive or expect from your case. While they will not be able to make any guarantees, it can help to create more realistic expectations of what is possible. In some cases, you may not even seek compensation, but rather a change in policies to restore your rights to environmental justice.
Pursuing Legal Action
Taking legal action is a personal decision. While speaking with an environmental justice lawyer can give you information and answer any questions that you may have, the decision to move forward is yours. You should never feel pressured to start a legal proceeding if you are not comfortable.
With that being said, the cases and outcomes for environmental justice cases vary. This depends on who you sue and what the situation is. Your lawyer can provide you with a detailed list of your options. Due to the statute of limitations, which differ by state, it is usually a good idea to start the legal process as soon as possible to ensure that you have enough time to go through with your case.
Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC Today for Your No-Risk Consultation
To learn more about environmental justice and environmental racism, contact the office of Ben Crump Law, PLLC at (800) 959-1444. We can discuss your potential case with you in a free case review. Our team understands these terms and your environmental justice rights as given by the law. We can answer any questions that you may have before making the decision of whether or not you want to move forward with a potential legal case.