Environmental justice—the movement to ensure disadvantaged communities do not suffer an unequal burden from toxic pollution and environmental hazards—covers a variety of possible claims. Water contamination, air pollution, and zoning that places housing near dumps or industrial areas are all claims under the environmental justice umbrella. The environmental justice lawyers at Ben Crump Law, PLLC can explain more.
What Is Environmental Justice?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”
Unfortunately, environmental justice is not a given in the United States. Communities of color, as well as other minority communities and those living in poverty, often face environmental injustice and consequently suffer from higher exposure to toxins, pollution, and the effects of climate change when compared to affluent white communities, according to data published in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).
Types of Claims Included in Environmental Justice
Environmental justice claims can cover many different issues, such as:
- Toxic waste facilities near minority communities
- Zoning laws that are unfavorable to a minority community
- Air and water pollution by manufacturing and industrial facilities
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Exposure to unacceptable levels of traffic caused air pollution
For example, water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina from the 1950s to the 1980s has been linked to cases of cancer, fertility issues, and other life-altering conditions. As victims of environmental injustice, those affected may be able to pursue legal action to obtain compensation.
If you are unsure whether you or your community may have a type of claim covered by environmental justice laws, you can consult with an environmental justice lawyer from our team. A lawyer will also be able to advise you on your best course of action to pursue justice and compensation for your family or your community.
The Basis for Environmental Justice Claims
If you or your community suffer from environmental injustice, you could have several options. A plaintiff or group of plaintiffs can file claims based on legislation such as:
Civil Rights Act of 1964
A plaintiff may be able to fight environmental injustice by invoking the Civil Rights Act Title VI, which prohibits a government agency from discriminating against color, race, or national origin. If a program receives federal funding, it may not discriminate “in types, quantity, quality or timeliness of program services, aids or benefits that they provide or the manner in which they provide them.”
The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause states that no person born or naturalized in the United States should be denied equal treatment by the law. The first environmental justice claims litigated fell under this clause. However, the burden is on the plaintiffs to show and prove intent to discriminate by the defendant.
Filing a Claim with the EPA Office of Civil Rights
It is possible to file an administrative claim for environmental injustice with the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office directly. The complaint must be in writing and filed within 180 days of the date of the last act of the alleged discrimination.
Personal Injury Environmental Justice Claims
If you suffered harm due to exposure to toxic chemicals or pollution, you could also potentially file a personal injury claim based on the negligence of a company or a government agency. The same principle can hold true for an entire community, which could potentially group together and sue in either a mass tort or a class action lawsuit.
A mass tort action is a personal injury lawsuit with many plaintiffs. The plaintiffs each have an individual claim with individual damages. Damages you could recover in a mass tort action can include medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, as well as others, depending on your injuries. A mass tort case can be efficient and cost-effective for a group of plaintiffs.
Class Action Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit also seeks to compensate a group of plaintiffs suffering from similar damages. The difference between a class action and a mass tort case is that a class representative works on behalf of all plaintiffs, known as the “class,” in a class action lawsuit. The class acts as one plaintiff. Any damages are distributed equally amongst the class and do not take into account any differences between individual plaintiffs’ damages or the severities of their injuries.
If a defendant acted particularly recklessly in causing injury to an individual or an entire community, they may also have to pay punitive damages to any plaintiffs.
Contact Us Now for Help with Environmental Justice Litigation
Environmental injustice is just another form of systemic racism. In addition to causing harm to individuals, it puts the needs of big and powerful corporations or governments before the needs of minority communities. Environmental injustice issues such as exposure to toxic chemicals or high levels of pollution can cause serious illnesses and even premature deaths among those living in the affected minority communities. Children’s health is also at risk.
Environmental injustice, just like any other deferential treatment, is unacceptable. However, it is not easy to stand up against companies or government agencies or even understand who is liable. Contact us today and tell us about your concerns. We can offer you a free evaluation of your potential environmental injustice claim.
Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC now and speak to one of our team members to find out if we can help you pursue justice and compensation for your environmental justice concerns.