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Brooke Grossman Explains How Environmental Litigation Can Be A Tool in The Fight Against Environmental Racism

NEW YORK, June 22, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Environmental racism, environmental justice, and environmental litigation are overlapping concepts rooted in the disproportionate burden of toxic pollution borne by low-income, heavily-minority communities.

Industry has a record of targeting these communities for waste disposal and other harmful practices because the people who live there have historically lacked the resources to fight back. However, beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, they did begin to fight back against corporate polluters using activism as well as litigation.

Origins of the Environmental Justice Movement

Two major events—a Texas civil rights case and protests in North Carolina—changed the course of the environmental justice movement.

In 1979, African American homeowners in Houston, Texas filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston and Browning Ferris Industries to keep a garbage dump out of their neighborhood. The lawsuit claimed that the decision to issue a permit for the waste facility constituted racial discrimination against the neighborhood's mostly African American residents, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It noted that Houston's African American neighborhoods were often chosen for waste sites, even though blacks at the time made up less than one-quarter of the city's population.

While the court sided with the defendants, the lawsuit was nonetheless groundbreaking, since it inspired the legal piece to the environmental justice movement.

Around the same time as the Houston case, in 1982, residents of Warren, North Carolina took to the streets to protest the placement of a toxic waste facility in their community. The state of North Carolina chose Warren, a small, predominately African American community, to host a landfill that would accept soil contaminated with PCB, a cancer-causing chemical. The protests, which lasted weeks and resulted in more than 500 arrests, did not prevent the disposal facility from being built, but it galvanized the environmental justice movement.

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Brooke Grossman, is an environmental Intern at SPG Law Firm.  In her blog, titled "Environmental Litigation: A Tool in the Fight Against Environmental Racism", Brooke explains in detail how the litigation landscape is changing. As well as she explains how despite increased awareness of environmental justice issues today, the situation on the ground has not changed considerably.

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SOURCE Sanders Phillips Grossman, LLC