Oct. 10, 2012 by Nicholas Vidargas

Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Pollution Controls for Timber Industry; EPA and Congress Try to Preempt Courts

Imagine the ecosystem in which salmon evolved and thrived in the Northwest.  As the region’s celebrated rain falls through old-growth forest, it is filtered through duff as it makes its way to one of thousands of pristine streams.  It is in those cold, clear waters that salmon begin their lives among rock and pebble, the product of their parents’ long journey from the sea, a journey they too will make in years to come. 

But in modern times, those salmon that survive their first years – avoiding predators, traversing past dams and through pollution, travelling the Pacific coast in search of food – often return to streams that are unrecognizable from just a few years prior.  The problem is that when the fall rains arrive, the runoff is no longer filtered through forest and duff, but falls on bare, logged hillsides and logging roads and is often channeled through culverts directly into the rivers and streams.  That once-unfiltered runoff is now full of sediment pounded down into a fine powder by a constant stream of heavy logging trucks.  Meanwhile, at the exact same time that the rains start to wash sediment into streams, salmon begin their journey upstream from the ocean …

Aug. 16, 2012 by Nicholas Vidargas

Around the country, a disproportionate number of facilities and operations that discharge sewage, process hazardous waste, and emit toxic air pollution are located in areas with high poverty rates or large minority populations.  Environmental regulation that has reduced overall pollution has often failed to do so equitably, leaving (or in some cases even increasing) environmental risks in certain neighborhoods.  These communities suffer from environmental harms in far greater numbers than the general population as dirty air, polluted water, and contaminated soils have been relocated to their neighborhoods, or left in operation as facilities in other areas are cleaned up or closed.  Sadly, for a long time, environmental justice for the marginalized members of our society has been a low priority for many activists and regulators alike.

Environmental injustices can also be the result of market-based environmental protection schemes that prioritize economic incentives while ignoring hard-to-quantify externalities.  Allowing …

July 5, 2012 by Nicholas Vidargas

Around the nation, a huge number of facilities produce, store, handle, and process a toxic mix of hazardous chemicals every day.  According to EPA data, 483 of those facilities put 100,000 people or more at risk of a chemical disaster.  Worse, because facility siting decisions have historically been, and continue to be, deaf to impacts on poor and minority communities, those facilities tend to be disproportionately located in communities that bear the brunt of society’s environmental ills.

In March, EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) formally recommended that the agency expand its use of a little-known, and even lesser-used, part of the Clean Air Act called the General Duty Clause (GDC), which was passed in the wake of the Bhopal disaster.  The GDC states that “owners and operators of stationary sources producing, processing, handling, or storing chemicals listed under 40 C.F.R …

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More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Oct. 10, 2012

Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Pollution Controls for Timber Industry; EPA and Congress Try to Preempt Courts

Aug. 16, 2012

New CPR Paper Examines Potential for Nutrient Trading in the Chesapeake Bay to Disproportionately Impact Poor and Minority Communities

July 5, 2012

Environmental Justice and Chemical Security: Why EPA Should Use the General Duty Clause to Protect Vulnerable Communities