The expression "environmental racism" is defined as "race-based discrimination in environmental policymaking; race-based differential enforcement of environmental rules and regulations; the intentional targeting of minority communities for toxic waste disposal and transfer and for the siting of polluting industries; and the exclusion of people of color from public and private boards and commissions, regulatory bodies, and environmental nonprofit organizations" ( Collin, 1993).
Although the issue of environmental racism has existed at least as long as the environmental movement itself, it received serious attention only in the 1990s. Indeed, African Americans in Louisiana and Mississippi contend that state decisions involving hazardous waste treatment plants have had the effect of unfairly exposing them to more toxic pollutants than is the case for white citizens. They assert that the state's permit procedures, which are supported by federal money, are partly to blame. These claims caused Bill Clinton's administration to agree to investigate complaints that Louisiana and Mississippi were violating the civil rights of African Americans by permitting industrial pollution in their neighborhoods at a rate far greater than is the case for white neighborhoods. Specifically, the federal Office of Civil Rights, located within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), notified the two states in question in October 1993 that it had opened an investigation under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in federally funded programs.
In contrast to the argument that prompted an investigation under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, others argue that state officials are not deliberately steering pollution toward black communities. Rather, factors other than racism--such as the cost of land, population density, and geological conditions--have dictated the location of such noxious facilities. At any rate, in 1992 EPA established the new Office of Environmental Equity to address issues associated with environmental racism, and on February 11, 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order No. 12898, requiring federal