Making Sense of Environmental Justice

By Steinberg, Michael W. | Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Making Sense of Environmental Justice


Steinberg, Michael W., Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy


Environmental justice advocates face cantankerous legal questions as they come to grips with transportation issues.

Environmental justice has become a major issue for planners, funding agencies, and local communities involved with transportation projects. Today, such projects as highways, urban mass transit systems, and airports cannot pass muster without first coming under the watchful eyes of environmental justice advocates. A highly visible example occurred this summer when a federal appeals court stayed Atlanta's $19 billion, 25-year transportation plan, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had already approved. [1] Environmental and civil rights groups had filed the lawsuit, complaining that the plan focused too much on the mostly white, affluent northside of Atlanta and too little on older urban neighborhoods, in violation of the transportation conformity provision of the Clean Air Act. [2]

Since President Clinton issued an executive order on environmental justice in 1994, requiring federal agencies to make environmental justice a part of their mission, [3] and especially since the U.S. Department of Transportation issued its own order in 1997, [4] expanding on the executive order, federally funded or approved transportation projects have come under increasing scrutiny over environmental justice concerns. This scrutiny will only increase in the future as environmental justice reviews of transportation projects will be routinely conducted, pursuant to a recent order issued by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. [5] In short, understanding and achieving environmental justice in transportation projects will be a critical challenge for many years to come.

Defining Terms

Environmental justice is one of the most loaded expressions in the political lexicon. It is also notoriously difficult to define. In theory, environmental justice involves the "fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, income or educational status, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies." [6] In practice, environmental justice demands that federally funded transportation projects with negative environmental impacts not be dumped in areas where the local residents are predominantly minority or low-income citizens.

Applying environmental justice to transportation projects is an especially difficult proposition, perhaps best illustrated by considering highway projects. Highways are not discrete facilities that fit into relatively small, circumscribed areas. On the contrary, highways are large, sinuous structures that traverse many neighborhoods and affect members of various ethnic groups. Determining whether particular groups, such as minorities or those who live on low incomes, are disproportionately harmed by these projects can be extremely difficult.

Fortunately, three sets of legal rules help shed some light on environmental justice issues:

* Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, [7]

* the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), [8]

* a series of administrative documents issued by DOT and two of its agencies, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

Given the high profile of environmental justice issues, it is increasingly important for planners, funding agencies, funding recipients, and local communities to understand just what the law requires. Unfortunately, the law is in such an early state of development that it is easier to pose the questions than to suggest the correct answers.

Title VI

The current prominence of environmental justice as an issue for transportation projects stems in part from a recent wave of "disparate impact" litigation under Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin under any activity receiving federal funds.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Making Sense of Environmental Justice
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.