A march protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Environmental Justice

Envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice is the fair treat­ment and mean­ing­ful involve­ment of all peo­ple regard­less of race, col­or, nation­al ori­gin or income as envi­ron­men­tal laws and reg­u­la­tions are devel­oped, imple­ment­ed, and enforced.

Low-income com­mu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ties of col­or across the coun­try suf­fer some of the worst and most per­sis­tent envi­ron­men­tal prob­lems. For exam­ple, coal-burn­ing pow­er plants that emit nitro­gen oxides and volatile organ­ic com­pounds that react to pro­duce high-lev­els of ozone-caus­ing smog are dis­pro­por­tion­al­ly locat­ed in these com­mu­ni­ties. As a result, these com­mu­ni­ties often suf­fer from high­er rates of asth­ma and oth­er adverse health effects. Like­wise, poor­er com­mu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ties of col­or often drink con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed water – the result of indus­tri­al dump­ing of pol­lu­tants and tox­i­cants near or in bod­ies of water and the fail­ure to invest in infra­struc­ture to treat and clean dirty water.

State attor­neys gen­er­al have been work­ing to address this per­sis­tent chal­lenge by pri­or­i­tiz­ing envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice in their offices’ envi­ron­men­tal work. Specif­i­cal­ly, attor­neys gen­er­al have cre­at­ed sec­tions with­in their offices to focus on envi­ron­men­tal jus­tice issues, cracked down on pol­lu­tion locat­ed in low-income com­mu­ni­ties and com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and sought to ensure those same com­mu­ni­ties can access the country’s pub­lic lands.

Pho­to by John Duffy, 2016.