Planning for Environmental Justice

Since the 1980s, there have been growing concerns about the inequitable distribution of environmental harms and benefits by race and class. This paper discusses the relationship between environmental justice, land use planning and regulation. Good planning results from a fair and participatory process and evaluates the likely and cumulative impacts of various land uses on the human and natural environment. However, poor land use planning has contributed to environmental injustices such as the siting of locally unwanted land uses (e.g., hazardous waste incinerators and solid waste landfills) in low-income or minority communities. The environmental justice movement has used political activism, civil rights and constitutional law, environmental law, and new policies at all levels of government to seek fairness in environmental and land use decisions. Litigation under federal and state environmental statutes has proven more successful than lawsuits based on civil rights statutes. Local planning, including comprehensive plans that specifically and identifiably incorporate environmental justice principles, is an effective tool for achieving equitable land use patterns. Localities also need to consider area-specific planning that targets neighborhoods and corridors most at risk for disproportionate environmental impacts, land use burdens, or poor infrastructure. The government also needs to find ways to encourage active participation by those people most directly affected by planning decisions.


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  • Accession Number: 01049693
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 1 2007 11:42PM