The Public Interest

Environmental injustice

Christopher Boerner & Thomas Lambert

Winter 1995

Eliminating “environmental racism” has fast become one of the premier civil rights and environmental issues of the 1990s. Over the past 15 years, what began as a modest grassroots social movement has expanded to become a national issue, combining environmentalism’s sense of urgency with the ethical concerns of the civil rights movement. According to “environmental-justice” advocates, discrimination in the siting and permitting of industrial and waste facilities has forced minorities and the poor to bear disproportionately the ill-effects of pollution compared to more affluent whites. What’s more, advocates contend, the discriminatory application of environmental regulations and remediation procedures has essentially let polluters in minority communities “off the hook.”

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