Addressing the Problem:
The Legislative Branches
Since 1990, environmental justice legislation has been introduced in Congress and in state and local gov-
ernment legislatures with increasing frequency. On the whole, state and local government legislatures have
been more successful than Congress at enacting legislation, issuing proclamations, or establishing commis-
sions and task forces to address the issue of environmental justice.
is chapter, therefore, represents Professor Ruhl’s fourth degree of relevance, which reads: “e failure
to portray an action as consistent with the norm is seen as a signi cant deciency.” A state legislature, for
example, sets the standards in the laws that are enacted for portraying an action as consistent with the
norm, and as being in compliance with the norm with respect to the issue of environmental justice. To a
great extent, obtaining a redress for environmental injustices a nd preventing such inequities from occur-
ring in the future will be set forth in the law. e state legislature plays a major role in the administrative
law process in two basic ways. First, the state legislature creates an environmental regulatory agency, denes
its authority, and funds its environmental justice activities. Second, the state legislature a lso provides an
oversight function, with the aim of ensuring that the state environmental regulatory agency exercises its
authority and spends money in a manner that is consistent with the state’s legislative policy goals regard-
ing securing environmental justice for all communities t hroughout the state, regardless of the race and/or
income of the residents of those communities.
e American Ba r Association’s (ABA’s) Environmental Justice Committee (within the ABA Section
of Individual Rig hts and Responsibilities) commissioned the Public Law Resea rch Institute of Hastings
College of Law to study the environmental justice legislation, policies, and other initiatives in the 50 states.
In Janua ry 2004, the A BA released the rst study, Environmental Justice for All: A Fifty-State Survey of
Legislation, Policies, and Initiatives?3 It found that since the ABA’s environmental justice policy resolution
was issued in August 1993, “more than 30 states have expressly addressed environmental justice, demon-
strating increased attention to the issue at a political level. e wide-range and variety of policy strategies
and approaches used by states, however, suggests that the issue will continue to mature over the coming
years.”4 e ABA’s August 1993, environmental justice policy resolution supported, among other things,
“the implementation and enforcement of existing environmental laws, regulations, and policies by federal,
state, territorial, and local governments so that a disproportionate share of the burden of environmental
harm does not fall on minority and/or low-income individuals, communities, or populations.” e ABA
environmental justice policy resolution is discussed in detail in §22.214.171.124, ABA Resolution on Environmental
Justice and the Report to the House of Delegates.
Since the ABA released the rst sur vey in Januar y 2004, there have been several editions. e ABA ,
in collaboration with the Hastings College of Law, released the fourth edition on February 15, 2010. e
measures highlighted in t he A BA surveys reect the realization by a number of state legislatures that:
(1)t he disproportionate exposure of minority and/or low-income communities to environmental harms
and risks is directly related to social, economic, and racial indicators; and (2)the inequities could be
addressed through legislation.
3. ABA Section of Individual Rights & Responsibilities, Environmental Justice Committee (2004), available at http://www.csu.edu/cerc/researchre-
ports/documents/EnvironmentalJusticeForAll2004.pdf. On February 15, 2010, the ABA, in collaboration with the Hastings College of Law,
released the fourth edition of the 50-state survey, which is available at http://gov.uchastings.edu/public-law/docs/ejreport-fourth edition.pdf
4. Id. at iii.