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How Has the Quality of New Jersey's Environments Helped to Promote or Undermine the Goal of Justice?
Three forums organized by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities in fall 2011, examined the connections between environmental justice and history, focusing on New Jersey’s many environments. The series started with Sharing the Delaware Bay, a discussion about how various stakeholders like oystermen, fishermen and local community groups can equitably manage access to resources in the Delaware Bay in the context of new economic conditions and environmental laws. The second forum, Newark’s Industrial Legacy, discussed the environmental effects of industrialization and deindustrialization on communities in Newark. Living in an urban area in the aftermath of heavy industrialization brought issues of pollution, health, race and ethnicity to the fore. The third and the last forum, Why Environmental Justice Matters, took place in Trenton, asking about the roles of the government, regulations and civil society in the fight against environmental injustice.
Explore this site to find video excerpts of the panel discussions, historical documents, and other resources. Let us know what you think (Click to send an email).
In 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency defined environmental justice as, "The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people, including racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies.”
As this definition suggests, environmental justice is concerned with creating safe, sustainable and nurturing work and living environments for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity and income level. While one of the movement’s goals is to insure a more equitable future, another is to confront environmental issues that have developed over time. Rapid industrialization and urbanization in the 19th and 20th centuries caused communities to migrate from the countryside to cities, and changed the scale and means of agricultural and industrial production. Resources were no longer shared according to local needs. Low-income people and minorities were disproportionately exposed to hazardous living conditions, and suffered from health problems. Fighting for the right to a safe environment and a transparent environmental decision making process became an important front in the Civil Rights movement. In the U.S., protests, heated debates and the formation of local environmental justice groups led to the recognition of these issues by the U.S. government in the 1980s and 1990s.
Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring is published. This book is seen as launching the environmental movement because it argued that uncontrolled pesticide use was not only harming animals or plants but also humans.
Passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Title IV prohibited the use of the federal funds to discriminate on the basis of race, color and national origin.
One day before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King joined the strike of sanitation workers in Memphis who rallied for better safety regulations.
DDT is banned as a result of a lawsuit filed by California Rural Legal Assistance on behalf of six migrant workers.
Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
United States Public Health Services (USPHS) acknowledged that lead poisoning was disproportionately impacting African Americans and Hispanic children.
The President’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) acknowledged environmental racial discrimination that affected the urban poor and the quality of their environment adversely.
Houston Northwood Manor’s African American residents protested for the removal of the Whispering Pines Sanitary Landfill from their middle income neighborhood.
Linda McKeever Bullard filed a class action lawsuit titled, Bean v. Southwestern Waste Management Inc, which also constituted the first civil rights suit challenging the location of a waste facility.
Warren County residents protested the siting of the highly toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) landfill in their county. Oil laced with PCB was illegally dumped along the roadways in fourteen North Carolina counties in 1978.
The New Jersey Worker and Community Right to Know Act became a law and required public and private employers to provide information about hazardous substances at their workplaces.
The New Jersey Clean Communities Council was organized as an advisory committee to the state Clean Communities Program, following the passage of the Clean Communities Act the same year.
The New Jersey Work Environment Council (WEC) was formed by environmental and labor activists, who has advocated for the Right to Know law of 1983.
United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice released Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States report, the first national study to correlate waste facility locations and race.
Clean Air Act passed by US Congress.
The first book on environmental justice Dumping in Dixie by Robert Bullard is published.
The first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit was held in Washington .
In the same summit delegates adopted 17 “Principles of Environmental Justice.” These principles were developed as a guide for organizing, networking, and relating to government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
The “Environmental Justice Act of 1992” was introduced into Congress by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) and Senator Albert Gore (D-TN).
After meeting with community activists, leaders and civil rights leaders, the U.S. EPA established the Office of Environmental Equity (the name was changed to the Office of Environmental Justice under the Clinton Administration).
EPA released Environmental Equity: Reducing Risk for All Communities, one of the first comprehensive government reports to tackle issues of environmental justice.
Two important leaders in the environmental justice movement, Rev. Benjamin Chavis and Robert D. Bullard, were appointed to the Clinton - Gore Presidential Transition Team in the Natural Resources Cluster.
The oldest statewide interfaith environmental coalition in the US, Partners for Environmental Quality, is established in New Jersey following the 1992 UN Earth Summit.
The Environmental Justice Act was redrafted and reintroduced in 1993 by Congressman Lewis (D-GA) and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT).
The EPA established the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) to advise the EPA administrators with respect to environmental justice issues.
Local community leaders and their allies prevented the Formosa Plastics Plant from opening in Wallace, Louisiana.
PBS aired the documentary, Toxic Racism.
West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT), a grassroots environmental group from Harlem, won a $1.1 million settlement against New York City for operating the North River Sewage Treatment Plant as a public and private nuisance.
The Washington Office on Environmental Justice (WOEJ) opened in Washington, DC.
United Church of Christ issued the updated report Toxic Waste Revisited.
The Environmental Justice Fund was founded by six major environmental networks to promote the creation of alternative funding strategies to support grassroots EJ organizing.
Institute of Medicine started the Toxic Tour of “Cancer Alley” as part of its fact-finding mission and preparation for its report on health and environmental justice.
South Camden Citizens in Action (SCCIA), which came together to tackle pollution issues in Camden New Jersey, was established.
African American farmers bring a lawsuit against the USDA charging it with discrimination in denying them access to loans and subsidies.
President Clinton issued Executive Order 13045 to protect Children from Environmental Health and Safety Risks.
Citizens Against Nuclear Trash (CANT) and residents in Homer win a big victory over Louisiana Energy Services (LES).
The First International Agricultural Worker Forum was held.
Church leaders in the Council of Black Churches, representing more than 17 million African Americans, participated in “Toxic Tour of Cancer Alley.”
The Black farmers' discrimination case against the USDA settles for a reported $400 million to more than $2 billion.
NJDEP Commissioner Robert Shinn signed Administrative Order 2000-01, which established the state's first environmental equity policy. Later, he issued another administrative order to make the Environmental Equity Task Force permanent Advisory Council.
A report, issued by NJWEC and entitled “Children at Risk: Toxic Chemicals Near Schools in Paterson and Clifton, New Jersey” was released.
The North Carolina General Assembly released $7 million in appropriations to begin the detoxification of the Warren County PCB Landfill.
NBEJN held a National Press Conference on “End Toxic Terror in Black Communities,” in Washington, DC.
Judge Orlofsky ruled in South Camden Citizens in Action v. NJ Dept of Environmental Protection that compliance with environmental laws did not equal compliance with civil rights laws, and determined that NJ has violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the first EJ case to prevail under this theory. The decision was later overturned by Third Circuit on grounds that plaintiffs did not have the right to enforce EPA's disparate impact regulations.
The Administrator of the EPA mandated that all EPA policies and programs be compliant with environmental justice standards.
The Advisory Council and NJDEP together developed the "Expanded Community
Participation Process for Environmental Equity (EE Process)" as a new requirement for pollution permits. In this way communities could be a larger part of the decision-making processes regarding permits.
The New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance was formed with 40-member organizations from local community groups, traditional environmental groups, civil rights organizations, labor unions and other groups
Camden Waterfront South Air Toxics Pilot Project began to assess the air toxic problems in the community.
Each EPA office developed and deployed an Environmental Justice Action Plan for the standards in FY2003, making a commitment for implementation within the next 5 years.
Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR-LA) helped craft California EPA‘s EJ Guidelines, a first of its kind in the United States
By Executive Order, Governor James McGreevey starts New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Program.
EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, "EPA Needs to Consistently Implement the Intent of the Executive Order on Environmental Justice," summed up the treatment of environmental justice under the Bush administration.
LA environmental justice leader Margie Eugene Richard became the first African American to win the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.
The NJ Work Environment Council organized a successful campaign that led to the adoption of an Administrative Order by the NJDEP. The order, which is the first agreement of its kind in the nation, allows workers and union representatives to participate in investigations of facilities that use extremely hazardous chemicals.
Twenty-five Democrats in the Senate and House sent a letter to the EPA for its failure to apply the Executive Order 12898 in its strategic plan for environmental justice.
The Concerned Citizens of Agriculture Street Landfill, after thirteen years of litigation, won their class-action lawsuit to be relocated and bought out from their contaminated community. In North Carolina, plans for Justice Park on the site of the Warren County's PCB Landfill by Warren County Government began.
EPA announced its decision to finalize changes to the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program.
Environmental justice advocates won an important victory when the Hastings Amendment was adopted into the House Interior and EPA appropriations bill.
Two major environmental activist groups, WE ACT and UPROSE, were appointed to NYC Mayor‘s Sustainability Advisory Board which helps the preparation of PlaNYC 2030.
The United Church of Christ released Toxic Waste and Race at Twenty, 1997-2007 report at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The report was authored by Robert D. Bullard, Paul Mohai, Robin Saha, and Beverly Wright.
Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation held Environmental Justice Policy Forum on Executive Order 12898 in Washington, D.C.
The Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change, is created as a new effort focused on influencing national climate change policies, and bringing the voice of people of color into the dialogue around solutions.
New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA) organized a statewide environmental justice tour of New Jersey for foundation program officers in spring 2007.
EPA found Citgo guilty of environmental crimes in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Hazardous Waste Cleanup (SB 32 – 2007) authorized local governments to investigate and cleanup small parcels of property contaminated with hazardous waste.
Citizens for Environmental Justice, based in Corpus Christi, Texas, conducted monitoring study of a fenceline community (first ever in the country) that found high levels of benzene in the blood and urine of adults and children tested.
New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance organized a conference in Trenton on the location of schools on contaminated land.
The S.642 bill codified Executive Order 12898 (relating to environmental justice) to require the Administrator of the EPA to fully implement the recommendations of the Inspector General of the Agency and the Comptroller General of the United States.
Obama administration announced a plan to curb the use of federal permitting for mountaintop coal mining and better protect rivers and streams from mining debris.
President Barack Obama proposed allotting $1.25 billion in the FY 2010 budget for the settlement of discrimination lawsuits by thousands of black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nearly $1 billion in damages were paid out on almost 16,000 claims.
New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine signed Executive Order 131. The order directs all state entities involved in decisions that affect environmental quality and public health to provide opportunities for input by representatives of low-income and minority groups.
It further creates the Environmental Justice Advisory Council to make recommendations to the State Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection regarding issues of environmental justice and equality.
A major victory against a corporation was won by West County Toxics Coalition, Communities for a Better Environment and the Asian Pacific Environmental Network when a judge ordered Chevron to stop work on its controversial oil refinery expansion in Richmond, California.
New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance organized a conference called The People‘s Assembly that focused on how several communities in New Jersey fought or are fighting various environmental injustices.
EPA released “The Interim Guidance on Considering Environmental Justice during the Development of an Action”, which is a document that guides EPA staff to ask the right questions during the rulemaking process. Also EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson named Environmental Justice and Environmentalism as one of the top seven priorities for the Agency.
For the first time in environmental justice movement history an international organization agreed to hear complaints of environmental racism against the United States by its own citizens. African-American residents of Mossville, won a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on charges that the U.S. government has violated their rights to privacy and racial equality in a pollution case.
EPA's Pollution Right-to-Know Program is revived.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law released new report, Now is the Time: Environmental Injustice in the U.S. and Recommendations for Eliminating Disparities.
PPG Industries agreed to clean-up one of the largest remaining sites contaminated with cancer-causing hexavalent chromium in New Jersey.
Wilma Supra, an environmental chemist who provides scientific evidence for communities to back up their claims when it comes time to go toe to toe with corporate criminals won a human rights award from Global Exchange, an organization that promotes social, economic and environmental justice around the world. Her work has helped illuminate the ongoing health impacts of BP's Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
Badger, Emily. “Environmental Justice Comes Back to Life”, 10 October 2011, http://www.miller-
Belton, Thomas J. Protecting New Jersey's Environment : From Cancer Alley to the New Garden
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Bryant, Bunyan & Mohai, Paul. Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards: A Time for
Discourse. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992.
Bullard, Robert D. Dumping in Dixie : Race, Class, and Environmental Quality. Boulder: Westview
Bullard, Robert. The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution, Sierra
Club Books, 2005. (Especially the chapter “Toxic Racism on a NJ Waterfront”)
Bullard, Robert D. Confronting Environmental Racism: Voices from the Grassroots. 1st ed. Boston,
Mass.: South End Press, 1993.
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1962.
Cole, Luke W., and Sheila R. Foster. From the Ground Up : Environmental Racism and the Rise of
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Cutter, Susan L. Hazards, Vulnerability and Environmental Justice, Risk, Society and Policy Series.
London: Sterling, VA : Earthscan, 2006.
Dixon, Eustace A., and V. Eugene Vivian. New Jersey, Environment & Cancer. Mantua, N.J.: Eureka
Environmental Health Coalition. Toxic-Free Neighborhoods Community Planning Guide. San Diego:
Environmental Health Coalition, 1993.
Foreman, Christopher H. The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice. Washington, D.C.:
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