Environmental Justice Law Seminar
This is an introductory course on Environmental Justice Law. Environmental justice means very different things to different people. To some, it simply means fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people in development and implementation of environmental laws; to others it consists of calling out and rectifying “environmental racism” practiced by government, private industry, and the public at large, and perfecting the right of all people to clean air, water and land. This course will trace the development of the field of environmental justice law from its roots in redressing a handful of contaminated sites in historically underrepresented communities to the dynamic, contested, complex, and nationally and internationally acknowledged area of law and policy it has become today. We will discover the multitude of ways in which environmental justice issues arise with respect to government and private actions, and the legal safeguards that have been developed to attempt to address environmental justice concerns in processes such as regulatory development, permitting, land use, and remediation of contaminated sites. We will review the legal and policy bases underlying environmental justice legal claims, and analyze how key cases have fared in the courts, as well as in the court of public opinion. We will end the semester by studying several historical and current environmental justice conflicts that have shaped the law, government policy, and public opinion over time.