Sabin Center for Climate Change Law
I will focus on what can and cannot be done under the existing statutory and regulatory structures and the common law to protect minority communities from environmental hazards. I will highlight some of the current holes in the legal system to suggest areas where statutory reform might be useful. Fights against these facilities break down between future unbuilt facilities, on the one hand, and existing facilities on the other hand.
A broad array of statutes regulates future facilities, such as landfills, incinerators, interstate highways, and polluting factories. Some of these laws are aimed at providing information and requiring the decision makers to think about environmental issues. The most prominent of these is, of course the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"). Here in New York, we have its analog, the State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA").
Under these statutes some consideration is given to social and economic factors. However, these are not substantive statutes. They do not compel any particular results, only consideration.
Michael B. Gerrard,
The Role of Existing Environmental Laws in the Environmental Justice Movement,
St. John's J. Legal Comment.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/807