Addressing the Problem: The Private Bar and Corporate America Page 811
e proposed resolution responds to an increasing body of disturbing e vidence that the burden of
adverse environmental impacts falls disproportionately on people of color and/or low-income populations.
While other terms have been u sed to describe th is phenomenon, notably “environmental racism” and
“environmental equity,” the term “environmental justice” is the preferred characteriz ation of this struggle,
reecting as it does the goa l to be achieved.
1. Growth of the Environmental Justice Movement
Over the past two decades, public and private institutions and ac ademic scholars have c onducted
research and investigation to determi ne whether the burdens of environmental harm and the benets of
environmental protection have been distributed inequitably to mi nority and/or low-income populations.
e studies show that our environmenta l laws, a s well as the means by which they are i mplemented
and enforced, do not adequately protect these populations. While the cau ses are many a nd varied, and
the specic instances of injustice sometimes dicult to establi sh under our current lega l framework, the
prevalence of environmental injustice—or the lack of environmental just ice—ca nnot be ignored and
should be addressed by the American Bar Association.
e environmental justice movement is said to have started in 1982 as a result of the outrage generated
by the decision of the State of North Carolina to bui ld a toxic waste la ndll for PCB-contaminated d irt
in Warren County. e contaminants to be buried there were to c ome from fourteen dierent counties
in the State. Warren County, however, had t he highest percentage of people of c olor of a ny county in
the st ate and was one of the poorest. e ensuing protest, t he rst nationa l African American protest
against the locat ion of a hazardous waste facility, involved not only residents of Warren County, but civil
rights, labor, and politica l leaders a s well a s environmental activists. Demonstrat ions in opposition to
the proposed site resu lted in the ar rests of more tha n 500 people, including Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.,
then-Executive Director of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racia l Justice (now Executive
Director of the National A ssociation for the Advancement of Colored People); Dr. Joseph Lowery of the
Southern Christian L eadership Conference; and Congressman Walter Fauntroy (D-D.C.).
2. What Studies Have Shown Over Several Decades
At least since the early 1970s, academics, social scientist s and federal agencies have been noting and
documenting the disproportionate distribution of the adverse eects of environmental pollution on lower
income populations; early in the 1980s attention was turned to the impact on minority populations. Some
of the more prominent of these studies and their results are set forth below.
a. Findings of the U.S. General Accounting Oce
In 1982, the same year as the Warren County protest, Congressman Fauntroy and Congressman James
J. Florio requested the U.S. General Accounting Oce (hereina fter, GAO) to conduct a study “to deter-
mine the correlation between the location of hazardous waste landl ls and the racial and economic status
of the surrounding communities.”
e GAO found, among other thing s, that Africa n Americans were the majority of the population in
three of the four communities where the four o-site hazardous waste landlls (Chemical Waste Manage-
ment, Sumter County, Alabama; Industrial Chemica l Company, Chester County, South Carolina; SCA
Services, Sumter County, South C arolina; and the Warren County PCB land ll, North Carolina) were
located. At least 26 percent of the population in all four communities had incomes below the poverty level
and most of that population wa s African American. In t he 1980 census, the poverty level w as $7,412 for
a family of four.
b. 1987 United Church of Christ Report
In 1987, the United Church of Christ Commission for R acial Justice (UCC) relea sed its report, Toxic
Wastes and R ace in the United S tates: A National Report on the Racial and Socio-Economic Characteristics
of Communities With Hazardou s Waste Sites (hereinafter, UCC Report). Among other things, the UCC