We need to support a holistic approach to justice, recognizing that environmental justice, social justice and economic justice depend on and support each other.
No one — including people of color and the poor — should be poisoned nor subjected to harmful levels of toxic chemicals and that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the pollution from industrial, governmental and commercial sources or policies.
Across the United States, the poor and people of color do suffer disproportionately from environmental hazards in the workplace, at home, and in their communities. Inadequate environmental laws, lax enforcement, and weak penalties for environmental violations undermine environmental integrity, public health and civil rights.
Environmental justice is the crossroads of environmental activism and the civil rights movement. It is founded on two fundamental beliefs: that all people have the right to live, work, learn, and play in safe and healthful environments; and that people have the right to influence decisions that affect environmental quality in their communities.
The government must ensure the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. To accomplish this, we unconditionally need implementation of the principle of environmental justice in our practices, policies and laws across the nation.
We recommend the following actions:
Make "pollution prevention" the preferred strategy for dealing with environmental justice issues, through eliminating environmental threats before they occur and considering cumulative environmental impacts when evaluating risk.
Uphold the precautionary principle, requiring polluters to bear the burden of proof in demonstrating the safety of their practices. Expand the application of the precautionary principle from chemicals and health to land use, waste, energy, food policy and local economic development.
Expand the public trust doctrine, which holds that government's role is to protect the commons, to include the domains of public health and protection of the natural environment.
Promote programs, policies, and legislation that build the capacity to identify disproportionate or discriminatory siting of polluting or toxic facilities. Assure non-discriminatory compliance with all environmental, health and safety laws to guarantee equal protection.
Facilitate procedural justice, ensuring the public's right to know. Ensure rules and regulations are transparent to help communities employ their rights and participate in decision-making. Provide information in languages appropriate to the affected communities.
Enforce corrective justice, ensuring the rights of communities and local agencies to seek judicial redress. Communities and local agencies must not be required to show or prove "intent to discriminate" to achieve redress for problems of disproportionate and/or racist environmental impacts.
Target precautionary and corrective justice actions and resources in communities with the highest concentrations of environmental hazards and in communities lacking socioeconomic resources.
Support, enforce and strengthen the National Environmental Policy Act.