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Abstract

Contrary to general public perception that environmental hazards are borne equally, the risks and accompanying burdens of exposure to environmental contaminants are distributed disproportionately along racial and class lines. The environmental justice movement has received much recent attention as being an extension of the civil rights movement, where advocates have demanded fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. This paper focuses on the difficulty that plaintiffs wishing to challenge hazardous waste siting in their communities have in proving that the siting decision was based on racial factors. Part 1 examines a North Carolina case that illustrates the potential that substantive and procedural requirements have in protecting communities from environmental injustice. Part 2 focuses on the emergence of the concept of environmental racism and early research studies that examined the phenomenon. Part 3 discusses the distinction between environmental racism and environmental justice. Part 4 examines the difficulties that surround the use of the Equal Protection Clause by plaintiffs who challenge hazardous waste siting in their communities. Part 5 examines Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as it has been used in environmental justice cases. Part 6 discusses Chester Concerned for Quality Living v. Seif, a Third Circuit Court environmental justice case in which plaintiffs challenged the siting of a hazardous waste facility in their community under Title VI. Part 7 focuses on post-Chester environmental justice developments. Finally, Part 8 explores substantive and procedural requirements designed to encourage community involvement in siting decisions.

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