agencies from funding state and local government programs that discriminate on the basis of race,
color, or national origin. The Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination by any program that receives
money from the federal government. Title VI, moreover, directs all federal departments or agencies
to promulgate regulations that ensure that the recipients of federal assistance do not use the funding
in a racially discriminatory manner. It provides that the federal government may cut off financing
for a program that does not end discriminatory policies or practices. Because most state and local
environmental projects, such as landfills, incinerators, and waste dumps, invariably involve some
federal funding, plaintiffs can seek relief under Title VI. Based upon the regulations that have been
promulgated by the federal government, discriminatory impact must be shown if the plaintiffs are to
Cole’s third approach is the “Environmental Law, With a Twist Approach.” Under this strategy,
plaintiffs use traditional environmental laws to ensure that they are applied and enforced equally,re-
gardless of who—or, in some instances, because of who—inhabits the communities. For example,
traditional environmental litigation strategies can be used effectively to force federal or state regula-
tors to release studies; to force municipalities to hold public hearings on projects that pose potential
health hazards; or to force regulators to hire interpreters at public hearings where the community is
predominantly Spanish-speaking. Traditional environmental laws can be used to challenge the issu-
ance of construction and operating permits, siting of pollution-generating facilities, excessive dis-
charges from existing facilities, and non-enforcement of cleanup provisions by government regula-
tors.3With this approach, there has been a coalescing of environmental law and civil rights law strate-
gies, approaches, and tactics, and, perhaps more important, a combining of resources.
Despite recent successes in environmental justice litigation, however, lawsuits are still unpredict-
able, and in the view of some practitioners and activists, they may actually do more harm than good to
the long-term goals of an aggrieved community. According to Patty Prickett, an anti-pesticide activ-
ist from Los Angeles, there are three great myths of white America: “‘The truth will set you free’;
‘The government is on our side’; and ‘Weneed a lawyer.’”4The environmental justice movement re-
veals the fallacy of these adages and argues that the struggles within the movement are primarily po-
litical and economic and that legal remedies may be inappropriate, or even nonexistent.5
Like most statutes, environmental laws are the result of highly centralized political processes from
which communities of color have been traditionally excluded and in which they are still
underrepresented.6Similarly,an administrative process, such as the decision to site a hazardous solid
waste facility, is arguablya political process and should not be driven solely by the “Not In My Back
Yard” (NIMBY) opposition of white, educated, middle- and upper-class citizens who have become
increasingly knowledgeable about the environmental risks and harms associated with these facilities.
Prof. Robert Bullard contends, however, that public officials and private industry, in their search for
the path of least resistance, have responded to this NIMBY phenomenon with the “Place In Blacks’
Back Yard” (PIBBY) principle.7
Federal and state courts appear to be resistant to the idea of using existing environmental laws to
direct local government decisionmakers to redistribute environmental risks and harms in a manner
that might affect communities with political and economic power and influence. Given the increas-
ing conservatism of the courts, many environmental justice movement activists believe that this
trend is likely to continue. Thus, if an aggrieved community’s lawyers are not creative with respect
to their legal strategies and approaches to litigation, minorities and the poor will continue to bear
228 ENVIRONMENTALJUSTICE: LEGAL THEORY AND PRACTICE
3. Alice L. Brown, Environmental Justice: New Civil Rights Frontier,Trial, July 1993, at 48-53.
4. Luke W. Cole, The Struggle of Kettleman City: Lessons for the Movement,5Md. J. Contemp. Legal Issues 67, n.4
(1994) [hereinafter Cole, Kettleman City].
5. Cole, supra note 2, at 523.
6. Luke W. Cole, Remedies for Environmental Racism: A View From the Field,90Mich. L. Rev. 1991, 1995 (1992)
[hereinafter Cole, Remedies].
7. Robert D. Bullard, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality 4 (1990).