Bill Gives Communities Facing Environmental Discrimination Fighting Chance

Statement from Buck Parker, Executive Director, in support of Civil Rights Act of 2004


Cory Magnus, Earthjustice, 202/667-4500

"Earthjustice supports the FAIRNESS Act because it will restore fairness under the law for communities facing discrimination in the implementation and enforcement of federal environmental laws.

"By a 5 to 4 decision in 2001, Alexander v. Sandoval, the Supreme Court stripped citizens and communities of color confronting disproportionately high levels of pollution of their right to seek justice in the nation’s courts. This has had real consequences for people living in these communities.

"For example, just before the Supreme Court’s decision, a federal court in New Jersey found that the state’s environmental agency illegally discriminated against the residents of a South Camden neighborhood by issuing an air permit to a polluting cement kiln operation when the state had already permitted a regional sewage treatment plant, a trash-to-steam incinerator and a co-generation plant in the same neighborhood. The court found that the state’s actions had a discriminatory impact upon area residents, in direct violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations. Because of the Sandoval decision, this important environmental justice and civil rights case was overturned on appeal.

"Unfortunately, there are many places across our country where neighborhoods of color face disproportionately high levels of air and water pollution and toxic waste because our federal environmental laws are not fairly enforced. The FAIRNESS Act will ensure that people facing such discrimination have a legal remedy: the right to have their day in court to seek justice and equal treatment under the law to protect themselves, their families and their communities from unfair and unhealthy levels of pollution.

"Earthjustice applauds the many members of Congress who are introducing this bill today."


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