Discrimination isn’t a total explanation for environmental inequality—their starting point’s flawed
Mr. Kevin is an environmental analyst at the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California. J.D., Golden Gate University Law School (1986); Doctoral Candidacy, University of California, Berkeley (1982); M.A., University of California, Berkeley (1975); B.A., University of California, Santa Cruz (1973). Mr. Kevin was an analyst with the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment from 1979 to 1987, and worked with private sector environmental consulting firms from 1987 to 1996. 8 Vill. Envtl. L.J. 121 "ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM" AND LOCALLY UNDESIRABLE LAND USES: A CRITIQUE OF ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE THEORIES AND REMEDIES
Nondiscriminatory factorsaccount for disparate resultsin the great majority of formal siting decisions. Some hazardous waste landfill sites which are often cited as examples of environmental racism, such as Emelle, Alabama and Warren County, North Carolina, may be technically superior to alternate sites. n92 For example, when Chemical Waste Management made its decision to site a hazardous waste landfill, Emelle was the only county east of the Mississippi River evaluated by EPA and listed as one of the ten most desirable counties for a landfill. n93 Factors accounting for its desirability as a landfill included the sparse population surrounding the site, reliable access to the site, and arid temperature in the site's location. n94 Most importantly, Emelle was underlain by dense natural chalk forming a good barrier between waste disposal activities and aquifers. n95 Other factors being equal, and independent of racism, siting proponents seek out areas where the costs of siting are low relative to comparable areas. n96 Minority communities are often in areas [*140] with lower land values. n97 In addition, although the assertion that "no one likes to live near a waste site" n98 is probably correct, in some instances there has not been strong opposition from minority communities that have been or would be affected by a LULU siting. n99 It is reasonable to conclude that lack of opposition has resulted from the same factors that have been cited in the cases of white communities which have solicited LULUs; as well as potential problems, LULUs can bring potential benefits to communities in jobs, revenues anddirect provision of social services. n100 In some cases, not only has there been a lack of local opposition to LULU sitings, but community leaders have actively sought out or welcomed such sitings. For example, the Campo Band of Mission Indians has supported the construction of a solid waste landfill on reservation land in San Diego County, California. n101 Permitting and environmental standards for the landfill would meet, at a minimum, applicable EPA standards. n102 The landfill [*141] would bring great economic benefits to the Campo Band. n103 Tribal sources estimated that the landfill would directly create at least fifty-five permanent jobs for at least thirty-five members of the Campo Band, almost eliminating tribal unemployment. n104 Here, the most sustained and politically effective opposition to siting the landfill has come from several white neighbors of the Campo Reservation. n105 Unfortunately, LULUs have been sited despite considerable opposition from minority communities. Sitingin the face of localopposition, however, is not limited to minority communities. A prominent example of LULU siting in spite of objections from non-minority communities is the decision to place a high-level radioactive waste repository in Nevada. n106 Conversely, other communities with white majorities have lobbied to have facilities, which most people would consider to be LULUs, sited in their jurisdictions in order to gain jobs and other benefits during difficult economic times. n107 In both situations, non-racial factors better explain the outcomesthan intentional or societal racism.
This is offense—universalizing that model makes it impossible to achieve environmental justice and make decisions based on priorities—nobody should be subject to those conditions