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 they face 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. You can 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 of environmental laws, regulations, and politics for all people regardless of race, income, or other factors.
Environmental justice principles aim to represent all people 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.
Ultimately, environmental justice promotes cultural norms, laws, regulations, policies, and decisions that support sustainability and community safety.
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. Institutionalized discrimination against minorities occurs 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 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 an environmental justice issue involves the risk of hazard exposure due to housing issues. Minority groups suffer exposure to environmental hazards at a higher rate than other groups due to discrimination in housing and legal protections. These communities lack strong legal protections, 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 of environmental justice victims have pushed lawmakers to take action to fix the problems. This means that many 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 affect 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, lawmakers have a long way to go to make sure that these problems no longer happen.
Environmental Justice Is Important for Camp Lejeune Victims and Their Families
A historical example of environmental injustice is when the Marines and their families suffered exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), qualifying Camp Lejeune victims have access to disability benefits. They can also file lawsuits to seek compensation for injuries and medical complications stemming from their exposure to toxic chemicals.
Specifically, Camp Lejeune victims can seek compensation if they:
- Suffered exposure to the water supply at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987
- Resided or worked at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more (consecutive or nonconsecutive)
- Suffered one or more qualifying medical conditions as a result of their exposure to contaminated water
A Camp Lejeune water contamination lawyer can take on your case while you focus on your health.
Qualifying Medical Conditions
The following diseases and medical conditions can result from exposure to the contaminated water supply at Camp Lejeune:
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Renal toxicity
Cardiac birth defects, other types of cancers, serious medical conditions, and injuries not listed above may still warrant benefits for Camp Lejeune victims and their families.
Children of Camp Lejeune Victims
Children of Camp Lejeune victims who suffer health problems due to their mothers’ exposure during pregnancy may also qualify for benefits.
While exposed in the womb, they must have suffered from one or more of the following:
- Neural tube defects (i.e., spina bifida and anencephaly)
- Major heart defects
- Oral cleft defects (including cleft lip)
- Choanal atresia (the narrowing in the back of the nasal cavity causing difficulty breathing)
- Eye defects
These medical conditions can stem from their mother’s exposure to TCE, PCE, Benzene, 1,2-Dichloroethylene (DCE), and vinyl chloride in the water supply at Camp Lejeune.
Seeking Legal Action for Environmental Injustice
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 affected 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 and force it 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 and Learn More About Environmental Justice
If you or a loved one is impacted by environmental injustice, you could seek compensation. Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC 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.