STUDIES: Environmental Justice Backsliding, or Making Little Progress

February 28, 2007

 A new report on environmental justice issues is scheduled to be released in mid-March 2007. The report, titled "Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty, 1987-2007," finds there has been minimal progress in environmental justice since the initial report, considered seminal by many, "Toxic Waste and Race," was published in 1987.

The new report's authors, primarily from several US universities, used a new evaluation method they say better represents the proximity of people to the 413 commercial hazardous waste facilities in 44 states (release). Based on considerable detail at the national, regional, state, and metropolitan levels, they found that minorities consistently are far more likely to live within 3 km of these potentially harmful sites, and that they tended to live in these areas before the facilities arrive. They also found that the situation is little improved from 20 years ago, and is in fact worse in some ways.

To help improve the situation, the authors make about three dozen recommendations targeted at various levels of government, nongovernmental organizations, hazardous waste companies, and others.

Both reports were commissioned and funded by an interest group, The United Church of Christ. But that hasn't kept the EPA from showing interest in the report following sneak previews, including presentations at the Feb. 17, 2007, annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.

A press release primarily covering one aspect of the report - the finding that minorities tend to live in these communities before the waste facilities arrive - is here. For a press release on the full report, and a copy of the Executive Summary, contact either Laura Bailey, 734-647-7087, or one of the authors, Paul Mohai, 734-763-4598.

In addition to this report discussed at the AAAS meeting, there were at least six other presentations on environmental justice, covering topics such as air pollution, climate change, natural disasters, and public policy.

One of those, about a study by Univ. of California, Santa Cruz professor Manuel Pastor and colleagues, covered an analysis of air pollution issues and environmental justice in the San Francisco Bay area.

Abstracts for the other presentations, and sufficient information to track down the authors, is available here; with "advanced search," enter session number 180-64 and select "sessions."

For many more environmental justice perspectives and resources, see TipSheets of Aug. 17, 2005; July 21, 2004; and April 25, 2001.