Environmental justice is a concept that developed in response to the discrimination and alienation of minority and socioeconomic groups leading to adverse effects because of environmental factors. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), environmental justice is the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement” of everyone, no matter their race, national origin, or socioeconomic status concerning applicable environmental laws.
Pushing for environmental justice helps communities overcome the environmental hazards that they are exposed to because of systemic issues, such as environmental racism. Over time, these problems continue to escalate and affect people’s health, welfare, and well-being. Legal options are available for creating environmental justice in your community. Consult with an environmental justice lawyer to see what your legal options are.
Defining Environmental Justice
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), environmental justice involves the fair and equal involvement, implementation, development, and enforcement for all people in environmental laws, regulations, and politics, regardless of race, income, or other factors. Essentially, it is a movement to make sure that everyone is fairly represented in decisions that affect the community and are protected evenly by regulations. In many cases, there is a major disparity between the concept of environmental justice and the real-world application of laws.
Examples of Environmental Justice
An example of environmental justice can be found in housing markets. Discrimination in housing is an ongoing problem and was a much larger problem in previous decades. Discrimination against minorities had been institutionalized in housing markets, making it difficult for minorities to acquire affordable housing or housing in specific areas, leading to minorities living near health hazards. To combat this, communities took legal action to break the institutional discrimination practices.
While largely successful, much of the damage had been done. Now, the lasting problems can be seen in how minority groups continue to suffer housing problems. However, legal action and social change initiatives continue to push for changes in communities that are having a positive effect.
Another example of how environmental justice is working is the change in hazards exposure due to housing issues. Minority groups are routinely exposed to environmental hazards at a higher rate than other groups. This is due to the discrimination in housing and legal protections. Legal protections are not as strong for protecting these communities, which leaves them vulnerable to natural and man-made hazards.
Environmental Justice Law
Laws regarding environmental justice are becoming more prevalent in states across the country. Consistent and persistent legal actions on behalf of groups that are routinely victimized by environmental injustice have pushed lawmakers and the government to take action to fix the problems. This means that many of the states are adopting laws that limit or actively combat discrimination and other sources of environmental injustice.
This can be seen in environmental protection and business regulation policies. There has been a long history of companies making decisions that unfairly impact groups in the community. For example, building a landfill where specific groups live exposes them to waste hazards, air pollution, and water pollution. Regulations have improved in stopping these kinds of problems from happening. However, there is still much to be done to make sure that these problems no longer happen.
Seeking Legal Action
The key to fighting environmental injustice is taking legal action. When an organization makes a decision that impacts a large segment of the community, these community members can turn to legal action as a way of stopping the negative impacts of those decisions. This has happened on many occasions where business activities would pollute the environment or destroy the environment in a way that disproportionately impacts a specific group. Filing lawsuits or pushing for regulation changes have proven to be effective at stopping some of these cases.
Because of the previous success in fighting environmental injustice through legal action, there are more lawyers than ever that can take on environmental justice cases. If you feel that there is environmental injustice happening in your community, you have the option of seeking legal support in a variety of ways.
To cultivate change, you can work with legislators to change the laws in specific ways. If there is a specific action that is creating problems, you can file lawsuits against the organization that is responsible to try to force them to stop. The appropriate action to take depends on your situation, but you do have legal options for protecting your community.
To get the best results, you will likely need to recruit other members of the community to participate. Bringing the community together is one of the best ways of improving protection for that community. Discuss your case with an environmental justice lawyer to see what legal options you have.
Call for a Free Consultation
If you or a loved one is impacted by environmental injustice, you could be entitled to compensation. Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC at (800) 959-1444 for a free consultation with a member of our team. We can answer any questions that you may have about your rights and your next steps. We are here to support you.