Professor Jerome Balter
Minority and low-income communities are unable to protect their neighborhoods from disproportionate pollution and industrial sitting under the present environmental justice system based upon the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA”) civil rights regulations. Strict adherence to the EPA’s civil rights guidelines has resulted in a backlog of complaints that are either uninvestigated or never corrected. Even when the EPA finds environmental civil rights violations, it is relatively powerless to prevent continued violations because its only recourse is to threaten to cut-off financial assistance to the violating state. These cut-offs, however, rarely take place because they require both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate to concur in the action. Despite its investigations and purported action, the EPA has never requested a financial assistance cut-off for any state.
Professor Robert Melchior Figueroa
Can a single analytical theory reconcile environmental justices’ conflicting paradigms of redistribution, which focuses on socio-economic status, and recognition, which focuses on historical and present institutional racial discrimination? Robert Melchior Figueroa argues that a bivalent conception of environmental justice can unify these two the two conflicting paradigms. This new conception of environmental justice allows us to better study the effects of environmental values and practices on the ways we treat one another. By focusing on the bivalent nature of environmental justice, theorists avoid trivializing the effects of historical and present institutional discrimination against minorities, which are often overlooked by theorists who focus completely upon socio-economic issues. This bivalent approach encourages theorists to incorporate cultural, economic, and locational relations into the study of our environments, broadening the environmental justice debate to reach more issues than just the fair distribution of environmental burdens and benefits.
Professor Michael Churchill
Who will protect minority residents suffering from disparate legal and environmental treatment? Minority citizens have historically been able to enforce their constitutional rights against discriminatory industrial placement through a private right of action under 42 U.S.C. §2000d-1. The Supreme Court decision in Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2001), however, eliminated that private right of action as the Court determined that Congress never intended to create a privately enforceable remedy. Minority residents are now stuck with a class of regulation that is “authorized but not enforceable,” and is relatively incapable of enforcing their constitutional rights.