an interest in environmental justice. Events and policy communities within states have prompted legislative action. Therefore, the issue may be gaining the momentum needed to keep it on state-level agendas, thereby leading to continued recognition at the federal level, at least in terms of maintaining the executive order and the EPA Office of Environmental Justice.
Another setback for the movement at the national level was the dismissal of one of its most well-known entrepreneurs, Benjamin Chavis, from his position as executive director of the NAACP. He appeared at multiple congressional hearings on environmental justice issues and attended national events that effected the movement. It remains to be seen if he will continue to be involved in the promotion of environmental justice as a public figure or on behalf of another civil rights organization. Perhaps another nationally recognized environmental justice activist will take over where Chavis left off.
Overall, it appears that environmental justice has been legitimized as an issue on the policy agenda. Mechanisms have been put into place that will allow the issue to be studied in more depth and perhaps result in greater evidence supporting environmental justice claims. For example, national health studies will now be demographically characterized in order to examine adverse health conditions based on socioeconomic breakdowns. However, as illustrated by the Kingdon model, it is not enough to develop the problem stream. If the policy stream of environmental justice cannot be coupled with the problem stream, there will be no chance of the issue moving through the decisionmaking agenda. Moreover, if empirical research on this topic continues to call into question the basic validity of the thesis, then support within Congress for legislation may wane as well. In addition, if the traditional environmental and civil rights organizations abandon the issue of environmental justice, it remains to be seen if grassroots activists can form a policy community that will keep the issue on the national policy agenda.
We have discussed in this chapter how the issue of environmental injustice has emerged onto the public agenda. In Chapter 4, we discuss exactly how we propose to analyze the validity of the claims of environmental injustice discussed above. In the subsequent chapters, we present the results of our analyses at the state, county, and city levels before we finally suggest in Chapter 10 what might be done to alleviate this potential problem for public policy in the United States.