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.
On January 10, 2022 the State Impact Center launched Expanding AG EJ Practice, a resource that highlights the expanding environmental justice work of attorneys general (AGs), identifies states which have already begun to incorporate environmental justice practices into existing programs, and documents and provides tools to help inform future work.