This week, Henry Tranes (’13) will present his paper “Sharing the Burdens of Pollution in New York: Whose Environment Are We Protecting and Who Decides” at the Legal & Policy Pathways for Energy Innovation Conference sponsored by the University of Minnesota’s Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences. From the paper’s abstract:
With a focus on New York State, this paper addresses how various official policies, well intending elected officials and bureaucrats, and existing environmental regulations have, to some degree, all failed to ensure that environmental justice communities are given sufficient opportunities to be involved in the regulatory process.
The failure to include minority and lower-income communities in the regulatory process is only highlighted by the recent increased inclusion of New York’s rural, mostly white, communities in decision-making processes addressing environmental and quality of life issues. Specifically in the context of the ongoing hydrofracking debate, rural communities most directly affected by the controversial drilling process have enjoyed a unique – and in some ways unprecedented – role in the regulatory process. The wide public support in pushing back against local environmental burdens and the acceptance of a level of authority to decide if, when, and how those same burdens should or should not exist – have rarely, if ever, been enjoyed by urban, mostly lower-income and minority communities facing similarly important environmental and quality of life issues. That is, the voices being heard most often are those of mostly white, sparsely populated areas of the state. Voices of similarly concerned citizens in more urban, minority, and lower-income communities are rarely heard as often, or as clearly, in the face of significant environmental health concerns.
Tranes is a fellow with CUNY Law’s Center for Urban Environmental Reform, which works to build the next generation of environmental leaders through innovative education and outreach programs.