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Failed PromisesEvaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice$
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David M. Konisky

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262028837

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262028837.001.0001

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Environmental Justice in the Courts

Environmental Justice in the Courts

(p.204) (p.205) 8 Environmental Justice in the Courts
Failed Promises

Elizabeth Gross

Paul Stretesky

The MIT Press

This chapter considers the role of the judicial system in addressing environmental inequalities. The authors begin the chapter with a careful review of empirical studies of environmental litigation outcomes, and conclude that monetary fines and penalties handed down from the courts do not appear to be directly discriminatory. Rather, studies suggest that, if discrimination in sentencing exists, it is likely to be indirect. The chapter next turns to the important question of whether courts can be successfully used by communities to overcome unfairness or bias in facility siting decisions, by providing a venue for individuals and advocacy organizations to challenge what they believe to be discriminatory practices. The authors examine this question in the context of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The analysis reveals that the courts have thus far provided few opportunities for environmental justice advocates to purse change through these venues. The chapter concludes with a set of lessons learned that can be employed to help achieve fairer outcomes in the future.

Keywords:   Environmental justice, Courts, Judicial decisions, Discriminatory impact, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Fourteenth Amendment, National Environmental Policy Act

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