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Marginalization by collaboration: Environmental justice as a third party in and beyond CALFED


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Governance and planning of ecosystem and water management within the California Bay-Delta, a critical component of California's water economy, have been characterized by a range of innovations in collaboration and conflict resolution. Despite legal mandates to incorporate environmental justice, the California Bay-Delta Authority's (CBDA) policy-development process and the subsequent Delta Vision process have systematically marginalized the role of environmental justice in California's water policy. We suggest that environmental justice in Bay-Delta planning can be understood as a “third party” with a tenuous seat at the CALFED water management table. As such environmental justice is a useful lens through which to assess the state's broader commitments and capacities relative to equity as a planning principal and outcome. We interpret the fate of environmental justice within Bay-Delta planning as indicative of the inherent tensions between systems based on increasing market dominance and state legitimation and the values of environmental justice based on distributive, procedural, and cognitive justice. We construct a model of marginalization and environmental injustice in collaborative planning to illustrate these tensions. We draw upon experiences of members of the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee of CBDA's Bay Delta Public Advisory Committee, as well as interviews with other key environmental justice interests, and a comprehensive review of internal and public CBDA documents relating to the environmental justice program including budgets and program plans, and ethnographic field work. We conclude that by learning from the mistakes of Bay-Delta planning, a positive model of collaborative, environmental justice-based planning for water and ecosystem management is possible.
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Marginalization by collaboration: Environmental justice
as a third party in and beyond CALFED
Fraser M. Shilling
*, Jonathan K. London
, Raoul S. Lie
Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Department of Human and Community Development, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, 2335 Hart Hall, Davis,
CA 95616, USA
Department of Sociology, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA
1. Introduction
[T]he whole idea of ‘‘everybody getting better together,’’
which was the mantra behind CALFED, didn’t really work
because the way it was developed without that [environ-
mental justice] piece to it [which] meant that you couldn’t
all get better together because your whole framework sort
of excluded the priorities and needs of the EJ community...
since these structures were created without EJ, you’re
always trying to retrofit, and [as] any... builder will tell you
it’s better to build things right from the beginning than
retrofit ...’’ – Environmental justice and water quality
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709
article info
Published on line 9 May 2009
Environmental justice
Water policy
Social equity
Governance and planning of ecosystem and water management within the California Bay-
Delta, a critical component of California’s water economy, have been characterized by a
range of innovations in collaboration and conflict resolution. Despite legal mandates to
incorporate environmental justice, the California Bay-Delta Authority’s (CBDA) policy-
development process and the subsequent Delta Vision process have systematically margin-
alized the role of environmental justice in California’s water policy. We suggest that
environmental justice in Bay-Delta planning can be understood as a ‘‘third party’’ with a
tenuous seat at the CALFED water management table. As such environmental justice is a
useful lens through which to assess the state’s broader commitments and capacities relative
to equity as a planning principal and outcome. We interpret the fate of environmental
justice within Bay-Delta planning as indicative of the inherent tensions between systems
based on increasing market dominance and state legitimation and the values of environ-
mental justice based on distributive, procedural, and cognitive justice. We construct a model
of marginalization and environmental injustice in collaborative planning to illustrate these
tensions. We draw upon experiences of members of the Environmental Justice Sub-Com-
mittee of CBDA’s Bay Delta Public Advisory Committee, as well as interviews with other key
environmental justice interests, and a comprehensive review of internal and public CBDA
documents relating to the environmental justice program including budgets and program
plans, and ethnographic field work. We conclude that by learning from the mistakes of Bay-
Delta planning, a positive model of collaborative, environmental justice-based planning for
water and ecosystem management is possible.
#2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
*Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (F.M. Shilling).
available at
journal homepage:
1462-9011/$ – see front matter #2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
advocate and member of a CALFED sub-committee
(Personal Interview, 2007)
Understanding any contemporary issue of water man-
agement and policy requires attending to the history of how
water is understood, used, valued, appropriated, and fought
over in the particular places tied to the issue (Worster, 1985;
Espeland, 1998; Walton, 1992; Orlove, 2002; O’Neil, 2006). A
brief overview of that history of discourse and practice in
Western United States water management, especially in
California, suggests that the ‘water wars’ of old between
urban users, agricultural interests, and, more recently,
mainstream environmentalists have institutionalized a
system of power relationships that make it almost impos-
sible to bring the concerns of the environmental justice (EJ)
movement to bear on the process in a meaningful way. The
model of ‘backroom’ deals may have shifted from being
smoke-filled and exclusive to commercial and regulatory
interests (McCool, 1987) to now include environmental
interests and agendas structured to promote collaboration,
but the tables around which California water is divided
remain largely closed to environmental justice concerns
and constituencies. Indeed, environmental justice is still
at the table, leaving issues of disproportionate exposure
to environmental threats (Pulido, 1996), inequitable access
to clean water (EJCW, 2005), and the opportunity of
low-income communities of color ‘‘speak for themselves’’
in planning decisions (Cole and Foster, 2001)outinthe
This article provides an alternate treatment of the
otherwise ‘privileged accounts’ of past and current water
management practices that have legitimated the ‘privileged
access’ to water resources and rights in California (Freuden-
burg, 2005) by exploring how environmental justice was
marginalized as an aspect of the planning and management
of water through California’s Bay-Delta. We begin with the
three domains of justice sought by environmental justice
advocates: distributive, procedural, and recognition (Schols-
berg, 2004). We then review the processes through which
these justice aims were contradicted within the CALFED
process. We close with a set of policy and political
recommendations for making water management more
equitable and democratic.
The water planning history we examine was initially
conducted through CALFED (a contraction of ‘‘California
CALFED, Delta Vision (DV), and the Bay-Delta Conservation
Plan. CALFED came on the heels of the 1992 water drought in
California and was spawned out of ‘‘Club Fed’’ – a
collaboration of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service,
and the Fish and Wildlife Service to manage water supply
issues within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta of Califor-
nia (see Fig. 1 for organizational chart). It was created
through the San Francisco Bay Delta Agreement in June 1994
to facilitate cooperation among California state agencies
with concerns over the Bay-Delta (e.g., Department of Water
Resources, California Department of Fish and Game, Cali-
fornia Environmental Protection Agency). More specifically,
CALFED’s goal was to coordinate 26 federal and state
agencies’ activities around the likelihood that massive
diversion of water at the pumps in the Southern Delta were
causing un-mitigated harm to threatened and endangered
Fig. 1 – Organizational chart for CALFED (source:
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709 695
habitats and species. To delay or even avoid an otherwise
inevitable lawsuit by environmental interests under the
Endangered Species Act, the US and California created this
water-based partnership – one of the largest ever in the
history of the United States.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service provided an annual waiver
of the Endangered Species Act for state water interests, as long
as CALFED showed progress under the ‘‘record of decision’’
(ROD). The ROD, signed by state and federal government
representatives on August 28, 2000, described how the state
would restore ecosystem processes, protect environmental
values, repair levees for flood protection, improve water
quality, provide a consistent water supply, and include a more
transparent and presumably more open-ended way of mana-
ging water conflicts centered around and through the Bay-
Delta through stakeholder and public input (CALFED Bay-Delta
Program, 2000).
According to one member of the California Bay-Delta
Authority (CBDA, the governing body of CALFED), the vision
of CALFED was to be an ‘‘innovative, collaborative struc-
tures [that got] departments to think across boundaries ...
It’s a twenty-first century model of governance. It creates a
more open process because you have a public hearing, so
there’s more opportunity for public participation, and it
flattens out the decision making’’ (Personal Interview, 2007).
Performance measures were included in the ROD against
which progress in meeting this program design could be
ascertained. This included a relatively bold and explicit
commitment to environmental justice, which in turn served
as the basis for many environmental justice stakeholders to
engage in the process. We will return to the origins of this
language in the following section, but for now it is useful to
pay attention to the high-minded ideals in CALFED’s
[T]he CALFED agencies are committed to addressing [EJ]
challenges related to water management in the Bay-Delta
watershed. The ROD acknowledges the importance of
examining the potential effects of water management
reforms on rural communities and the public health and
financial impacts of ecosystem and water quality program
actions on the large numbers of minorities and disadvan-
taged people living in urban areas. With that under-
standing, the CALFED Program and agencies are
committed to seeking fair treatment of people of all races,
cultures, and incomes, such that no segment of the
population bears a disproportionately high and adverse
health, environmental, social or economic impact result-
ing from CALFED’s programs, policies, or actions. In order
to turn these commitments and principles into action, the
ROD requires the CALFED agencies, by the end of 2000, to
collaborate with [EJ] and community stakeholders to
develop a comprehensive [EJ] workplan across all program
areas. This workplan was intended to ensure that the
CALFED agencies developed the capacity and process to
understand, monitor, and address [EJ] issues as the
program moves into implementation, including identify-
ing and developing specific methods to address and
mitigate [EJ] impacts. (CALFED Bay-Delta Program EJ
Workplan, December 13, 2000)
Based on much of the literature on CALFED highlighting its
collaborative, open and participatory qualities (Innes et al.,
2006, 2007), it would have been reasonable to expect that this
high-minded language would be realized within CALFED.
Recent accounts of CALFED have identified several important
innovations in its strategies for water management and the
resolution of water conflicts in the state. Perhaps most
fundamental are the analyses by Innes et al. (2006, 2007) as
well as Lejano and Ingram (2009) that highlight CALFED’s
model of collaboration including horizontally networked,
boundary-crossing, information-sharing, informally arranged
decision-making. These accounts are in-line with the broader
literature on governance-beyond-the-state (Swyngedouw,
2005) and innovative governance that occupy a prominent
place in current political theory and practice in the United
States and elsewhere.
Unfortunately for all involved, evidence suggests that the
collaborative model employed by CALFED in fact produced
marginalization of environmental justice interests and con-
stituencies. In this paper, we puzzle over this apparent
contradiction and ask how a process ostensibly based on
collaboration could at the same time produce dynamics of
marginalization. If CALFED is a paragon of collaboration, we
ask: collaborative for whom? We describe the nature of the
collision between environmental justice and the powerful
water interests in the state that were involved in CALFED and
from this to build a broader framework for understanding
water and power in California.
2. The prehistory of environmental justice
According to CALFED planning documents (CALFED Environ-
mental Justice Workplan, 2000), environmental justice provi-
sions were included in CALFED in response to federal and state
mandates that public agencies incorporate environmental
justice processes and principles in all of their activities.
Layered on top of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and President
Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order (#12898), California’s SB 115
(Solis D-El Monte) and SB 89 (Escutia D-Montebello) passed just
prior to the signing of ROD (in 1999 and 2000 respectively)
obligate the California Environmental Protection Agency to
institute a range of efforts to incorporate environmental
justice (London et al., 2008). It is relevant to note that as
Latinas, state Senators Escutia and Solis (now President
Obama’s Secretary of Labor) represent a new wave of Latino
political power in California. Together with their fellow
members of the Latino caucus, Solis and Escutia were
responsible for the sponsoring over half of the 20 state laws
passed on environmental legislation since 1999. Based on this
legislative push – itself in response to pressure from organized
Latino and other constituencies, the state and federal agencies
wrote environmental justice into their funding document in
the language quoted above.
Beyond electoral politics in California, the appearance of
environmental justice within CALFED was a result of historical
dynamics on the state and national scales. Understanding the
inherently oppositional relationship of environmental justice
with modern nation states allows the conflicts over environ-
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709696
mental justice within CALFED to be more usefully theorized.
The environmental justice movement in the United States
arose during the early 1980s in response to a series of attempts
to site hazardous waste facilities in low-income communities
and communities of color. Local struggles to prevent these
facilities from endangering their communities spurred
national attention (Brown and Mikkelson, 1990; Cole and
Foster, 2001). Subsequent studies by the US General Account-
ing Office (1983),United Church of Christ (1987), and Robert
Bullard’s Dumping in Dixie (1990) validated that this inequitable
exposure to toxic substances was a wide-spread phenomenon
requiring federal action.
Over the past three decades, hundreds of environmental
justice organizations have sprung up around the country,
linking problems of racial and class stratification to commu-
nity organizing against the siting of hazardous facilities, as
transportation, housing and urban development; and a full
say in decisions that affect their health, economic vitality and
well-being (Brown, 2007; Brulle and Essoka, 2005; Novotny,
2000). These organizations build more from the civil rights
movements than the white, middle-class environmental
movement (Bryant and Hockman, 2005). The environmental
justice movement is based on the recognition that places in
which people of color and low-income people ‘‘live, work,
play, go to school, and worship’’ tend to bear a dispropor-
tionate burden of environmental threats (Pulido, 1996;
Bullard, 1990) in what is already a ‘‘risk society’’ (Beck,
1992). Environmental justice has sought to intervene in
‘environmental racism’, ‘‘in which racial minorities are
disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards and
systematically excluded from environmental decision-mak-
ing’’ (Pulido, 1996:xiii).
Environmental justice has also challenged contemporary
applications of science. This is advanced through its
advocacy for the ‘‘precautionary principle’’ or the idea that
the burden of proof should be on the manufacturer, user,
and/or regulator of a potentially harmful substance or
technology not on the communities who are likely to bear
the effects (Science and Environmental Health Network,
1998; Whiteside, 2006). Environmental justice has cham-
pioned the notion of ‘‘cumulative impacts’’ that depart from
single chemical, single pathway, single point in time
analysis to construct models of multiple exposures to
multiple hazards from multiple media faced by people
and communities (Fox, 2002; Bullard, 1990). Pushing these
methodological innovations even further, environmental
justice activists have challenged the truth monopolies
typically held by academic, industry, or agency scientists
and called for a co-production of knowledge and a
pluralistic structure to knowledge production with local/
indigenous/embodied knowledge integrated with peer-
reviewed science (Corburn, 2005, 2007).
Despite advances in the passage of legislation and
promulgation of agency policies in support of environmen-
tal justice, there have been many setbacks and dead-ends in
its pursuit (London et al., 2008). Significant questions remain
about the effectiveness (and even integrity) of the state and
regional agency practices to implement these policies (Targ,
2005). Theoretical understandings that posit ‘‘ecological
disorganization, and environmental inequality and racism
as...fundamental to the project of modern nation building,’’
the normal routine functioning of capitalist economies
(Pellow, 2007:5, 17), throw into question whether any
reformist approach is even feasible. In the field, activists
routinely raise concerns and voices about the limited
resources, levels of decision-making authority, transpar-
ency, and accountability that doom agency attempts to
address environmental justice in a meaningful way.
Ultimately, environmental justice as a way to fine-tune
state and market machinery clashes with visions of
environmental justice as a new technology of democracy,
which makes public policy approaches to environmental
justice, such as those to be described within CALFED, so
ridden with conflict.
3. Institutionalized power, inequities, and
resistance in California water
While much of the environmental justice literature focuses
on the risks of environmental contamination and the move-
ments that have arisen to contest this, there is another
history that bears directly on the experience of environ-
mental justice in CALFED, and that is the history of water and
power in California. Indeed, the ‘‘water wars’’ that have
characterized much of California’s history provide an
important context for understanding the dynamics asso-
ciated with environmental justice in CALFED. It is the very
military nature of this metaphor that bears examination for
its emphasis on the clash of great powers and the collateral
damages that are typically sustained by those that are un – or
more lightly – armed. That is, at the risk of glossing too lightly
over a complex and varied history: the place of water in the
legacies of conquest (Limerick, 1987) of California has
involved the contestation of powerful entities – agribusiness
corporations, urban politicians and water districts, public
agencies, and more recently environmentalists armed with
legal standing and enforceable statutes (O’Neil, 2006). While
the balance of power has shifted over time, what remains
constant is both the push and pull between them and the
marginalization of interests without the means to compel the
attention and compliance of the others (O’Neil, 2006). It is this
subaltern position that characterized the environmental
justice participants of CALFED and against which they
The relationships between water and social/economic/
political power in California (and elsewhere in the American
West) is insightfully analyzed by Donald Worster (1985) as
embedded within a process of ‘‘empire’’ building by state
and capital interests. Worster (1985) builds on John Wesley
Powell’s and Wallace Stegner’s (1954) focus on aridity as the
defining condition of the region and – without lapsing into
environmental determinism – recounts how arid conditions
coupled with imperatives for economic and population
growth concentrated tremendous power in the government
agencies whose hands lay on the ‘spigots’ (dams, aqueducts)
and set off extensive battles over the water rights to this
liquid gold. The high political and economic stakes involved
in the large-scale water engineering projects privileged the
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709 697
water purveyors (agency engineers, contractors, and water
rights holders) and helped fuel the rise of California’s
industrial scale agriculture (McWilliams, 1939; Pisani, 1983;
Walker, 2004) as well as the feudal city-state-like LA
Metropolitan Water District. Over time, ‘‘iron triangles’’ –
to use Weber’s term denoting alliances between state
agencies and civil society elites – developed between public
water agencies, congressional leaders, and agribusiness
(McCool, 1987). Thus, in California, as Walton (1992:5) notes,
‘‘the record of human agency and institutional devel-
opment,... has been a succession of struggles over domin-
ion, of claims and counterclaims on the legitimate
possession and use of resources bound up with the land,
subsoil, water, air, the natural environment generally, and,
in particular, with the social groups that won and lost in the
A critical element of these struggles has been their
transaction of water between the primary and secondary
parties (sellers and buyers) and the positioning of all others as
‘‘third parties.’’ The notion of third party, while an attempt to
capture and potentially rectify negative economic, social and
environmental externalities of water transfers (Carter et al.,
1994) by definition distances such parties from the decision-
making table (reserved for first and second parties) and limits
the policy decision space to reactive, rather than preventative,
measures. While the ‘‘power geometry’’ (Massey, 2005)of
water in California has distanced third parties from decision-
making power, this status has not gone uncontested. The
growing strength of the environmental movement has
enabled a countervailing force to urban and agricultural water
interests as evidenced in the successful fight to ‘‘save Mono
Lake’’ from water diversions in the 1980s, and law suits in the
1990s under the Endangered Species Act that threw a wrench
into the diversions of water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin
Delta, prompting the crises which CALFED sought to defuse.
More recently, environmental justice advocates—sometimes
aided by mainstream environmental advocacy organizations
(e.g., Earth Justice), have launched a new wave of assaults on
the monopolized power structure and marketization of water
in California. A quote from one of the major environmental
justice actors, the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
clearly states their critique of water management and policy in
the state:
Many [environmental justice] advocates...worry
that...[market-based water] transfers could disguise a
reshuffling of the state’s public water between powerful
corporations and landowners... public and quasi-public
agencies have cut out communities of color and low-
income communities for decades precisely by creating
policies and institutions that favor private and corporate
interests...[environmental justice] advocates fear that in
an improperly or insufficiently regulated market, those
who have already been left out would be further unable to
compete against those who have grown rich from decades
of unjust water distribution in California (environmental
justice 2005:36–37).
Environmental justice activists have increasingly been
struggling to find their place in California’s newest water
scheme, the Bay-Delta planning process(es), including
CALFED. Their fight, in the context of environmental justice
in general and in water policy development in particular, has
led to the policy analysis we detail here: the Bay-Delta
planning process started with informal and secretive meet-
ings among conflicting parties, setting an exclusive table with
seats for only certain parties. Presence at and access to this
table where credibility is set (e.g., funding resources, knowl-
edge, exclusive communication) was established at the
beginning of the collaborative governance process, meaning
that a lack of place and access to the table resulted in a lack of
credibility. There have been various mechanisms for exclu-
sion and denying access, including language, arbitrary
legitimation of knowledge, cultural practices of interaction
among those in power, and class. Apparently thosep resent at
the collaborative governance table have become accustomed
to their relationship, with those desiring access being seen as
alien and threatening. Environmental justice’s stakes in the
process are disproportionate impacts to disenfranchised
communities and lack of access to decision-making. The
conflict over access ultimately was a conflict between a moral
economy (social values) and political economy (codified
power arrangements). Because those in power at the table
ended the conflict through elimination of the ‘‘third parties’’,
the antagonism was only exacerbated and is leading to
greater conflict in other arenas, signaling the fundamental
failure of this experiment in collaborative governance over
water in California. We examine the experiment in the
sections below.
4. Research strategy
The data used as the basis for the descriptive and analytical
parts of this study are a combination of three in-depth
interviews and one four-member focus group with CALFED
process participants, minutes of the CALFED Environmental
Justice Sub-Committee meetings and recollections and notes
of these meetings from one co-author (Shilling), ethnographic
observations and field notes taken by our lead author at
California policy conferences in 2005 and 2006, organizational
and public documents about CALFED, and historical accounts
of water politics and the environmental justice movement.
The 45–105 min interviews were transcribed, and coded to
track both unfolding of environmental justice in CALED and
what that meant to Environmental Justice Sub-Committee
members. The quotes from data sources in this article have
been edited for clarity. Shilling’s participant observation in
from late 2002 to mid-2005 when the Environmental Justice
Sub-Committee was dissolved. He was also active in the
Watershed Sub-Committee (WSC) until it was also dissolved.
We used the organizational and public documents we
gathered to corroborate our observations. Direct engagement
by the lead author and close attention by the other two in the
process enriches our study (Ganz, 2000), coupled with the
other methods employed, facilitate the ‘‘triangulation’’ of
multiple data sources to arrive at a thick, rich, and plausible
description and interpretation of the case under study
(Duneier, 1999).
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709698
5. A model of injustice
To understand the rise and fall of environmental justice
within CALFED, and in particular, the overall failure of CALFED
to implement its ambitious goals for integratingenvironmental
justice throughout the initiative,we constructa heuristicmodel
of ‘‘nestedmarginalization’’ (Fig.2). For this purpose we draw on
the political theorist Schlosberg (2004, 2007) who provides a
incisive analysis of the ‘‘justice’’ of environmental justice.
Schlosberg (2007) proposes that environmental justice contains
a concern about process and democratic access to decision-
making by typically under-represented populations (heard in
the environmental justice slogan, ‘‘we speak for ourselves!’’); a
concern for an equitable distribution of environmental risks as
well as opportunities. To these standard elements, Schlosberg
adds ‘‘recognition’’ or the respect afforded to diverse ways of
seeing and knowing – a critical intervention in the science-
based domains of environmental and natural resource policy.
Schlosberg argues that without this recognition, claims for
procedural or distributional justice are limited in their impact
and even counter-productive.
Set against this normative framework, we can now begin to
explore the production of injustice within CALFED. It is when
one or more of these dimensions of justice are not present or
not articulated with the others, that injustice arises. The
outcome of all of the dynamics of the model is injustice and
marginalization, the minimal influence of environmental
justice principles or actors on the policies, funding allocations,
and authority over water. At the center of the model are the
institutional processes of CALFED’s vaunted collaboration and
participation – processes which we argue have a significant
anti-democratic underbelly. Surrounding and shaping these
processes is the profound disconnect between the science-
based culture of CALFED and the diverse ways of knowing,
speaking, and communicating brought to bear by the
environmental justice participants in CALFED. Wrapping
around these contests of knowledge are the substantive
issues addressed and neglected by CALFED and the margin-
alization of environmental justice issues within this frame-
work. Finally, the notion of ‘‘legacies of conquest’’ to use
Limerick’s (1987) evocative phrase refers to the historical
context with its embedded power relations and political
economies that serves as a context within which these
institutional dynamics are formed and play out.
6. The process of marginalization of
environmental justice in CALFED
Achieving the noble intentions contained within CALFED’s ROD
hasproven problematicto say theleast.California’sLittleHoover
Commission, in its critical analysis of CALFED, noted that the
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee ‘‘has not been ade-
quately funded and its ability to implement a basic work plan
as outlinedin the ROD was‘an embarrassingfailure’’’(LHC, 2005,
pp. 82). In her assessment of CALFED as part of her proposed
legislation (SB 8 which was eventually vetoed by Governor
Schwarzenegger) to formalize environmental justice as an
official element of the effort, state senator Sheila Kuehl wrote:
Six years [after completion of the ROD], neither the CALFED
agencies nor the [CBDA] have adopted a comprehensive [EJ]
Fig. 2 – Nested marginalization.
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709 699
work plan. Nor have the CALFED agencies nor the [CBDA]
developed [EJ] goals and objectives as called for in the ROD.
Simply stated, the CALFED agencies and the [CBDA] have
demonstrated little commitment to addressing environ-
mental justice challenges related to the management of
water in the Bay-Delta watershed as called for in the ROD.
For the environmental justice advocates themselves, many
of whom had spent countless hours toiling within the
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee of the BDPAC, the
inability to bring the reality of CALFED in-line with its rhetoric
was a bitter disappointment. In a 2005 press release following
the release of CALFED’s 10-year action plan that included little
attention to environmental justice and in comment letters
written to CALFED, a number of the key members of the
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee reflect:
Originally we were encouraged by what seemed like a real
commitment on the part of CALFED to ensuring public
participation... However, over the past five years it has
become crystal clear that CALFED never had any intention
of truly implementing its environmental justice obliga-
tions. (Martha Guzman, legislative analyst, California Rural
Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF) and past Environ-
mental Justice Sub-Committee chair)
This is a slap in the face to communities throughout
California... The Bay-Delta Authority once again exhibits
their total disregard for environmental justice and true
public participation in the vital decisions concerning water
in California. (LaDonna Williams, executive director,
People for Children’s Health and Environmental Justice)
Now is a moment of rare agreement that the system is
broken... The Governor and the Legislature must ensure
that CALFED does not repeat the same mistakes of
exclusion and discrimination that have characterized it
for so long. (David Nesmith, Environmental Water Caucus
‘‘[T]he people who sat at the table and signed the ROD may
have had the best of intentions...The fact is that people
implementing on the ground didn’t have the same
commitment... At every single turn, every opportunity
they had to advocate in the budget process for money to
fund this, they didn’t...They just completely failed. It was
not a priority.’’ – Environmental Justice Advocate, Focus
Group, 2007
In 2005, the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee was
disbanded by CALFED. While there have since been occasional
attempts within Bay-Delta to address environmental justice
(some of which are on-going) the comments expressed above
coupled with the disbanding of the Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee and the current boycott of all environmental
justice-related processes within CALFED by most environ-
mental justice organizations have effectively ended the policy
experiment spelled out in the ROD. To understand how such a
bold policy intention could be reduced to a ‘broken system,’ we
must examine the social processes of how environmental
justice interacted with the Bay-Delta planning system over
time. We examine these processes in the next three sections
describing authority, resources, and dissolution of the CALFED
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee.
6.1. Procedural injustice: an absence of democracy and
contention over authority
Understanding the ‘‘end-in-itself’’ character of institutions
(Selznick, 1957, 1996), coupled with analysis of modern
bureaucracies originated by Max Weber and skillfully applied
to water agencies by scholars such as Wendy Nelson Espeland
(1998, 2000),Gottlieb (1988),Gottlieb and FitzSimmons (1991),
and O’Neil (2006), we can predict that ‘‘grassroots’’ interests
from outside CALFED such as environmental justice organiza-
tions might be viewed as, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, a
threat to the state and federal resource agencies leading
CALFED. The reasons for this are varied and span the range of
organizational theory. First, as Espeland shows in the case of
the Bureau of Reclamation, notions of instrumental ration-
ality, encoded in the agency’s ‘‘surrogate political process...
created a technologically driven, sanitized process’’
(2000:1083). Second, Espeland further examines how, the
relevance of new stakeholders and their knowledge, ‘‘was
strictly controlled, shaped powerfully by how rationality was
conceived, the particular subjects it demanded and the way
expertise was mobilized’’ (2000:1102).
This analysis provides a critical lens on more optimistic
treatments of collaborative planning (Wondolleck et al., 1996)
and on CALFED more generally, (Heikkila and Gerlak, 2005;
Innes et al., 2006) that gloss over the ways that collaborative
planning can exacerbate power disparities. For example, the
proclamation by Innes et al. (2006:53) that CALFED has ‘‘turned
California water wars into skirmishes’’ only holds true from
the perspectives of the Great Powers in the earlier wars, not
those sustaining collateral damages such as the Winnimum
Wintu (who remain technically at war with the Government of
the United States over the desecration of Wintu lands by
Shasta Dam) and disproportionately impacted communities
excluded from planning.
CALFED leadership’s initial response to the environmental
justice mandates in the record of decision was to establish an
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee to the Bay-Delta Public
Advisory Committee. This sub-committee was one of many
within CALFED (e.g., water supply, drinking water, watershed).
Unlike all but the Watershed Sub-Committee the Environ-
mental Justice Sub-Committee had no requirements for
membership other than attendance. This open membership
allowed for the environmental justice community to define
and ‘‘speak for itself’’, a critical component of the practice of
environmental justice, and initially supported an active and
dynamic group culture. The chair and co-chairs were
appointed by the CBDA, the first of which was Martha
Guzman, a well-known organizer with the United Farm
Workers and later the California Rural Legal Assistance
Foundation, who later became co-chair. In summer of 2003,
the remaining chair resigned and Dr. Henry Clark, Executive
Director, West County Toxics Coalition, was unanimously
supported by the EJSC for this position. He remained the
unofficial ‘‘interim’’ chair of the sub-committee for 2 years,
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709700
due to inaction on the part of the CBDA Public Advisory
Committee (BDPAC) to recognize him as chair. As a result of
this lack of recognition of his role as Environmental Justice
Sub-Committee chair, Clark was never appointed as a member
of the BDPAC, therefore depriving the sub-committee of direct
representation in this body. He also happened to be African-
Attendance in the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee
varied considerably over its 3-year history (Fig. 3). There were
distinct phases of organizational participation, with eight
organizational groups of stakeholders (e.g., state agencies,
community organizations). Although exact cause is difficult to
determine, state agency participation was greatest when
CALFED coordination was low and waned to none over the
ensuing 2 years. Community organization participation grew
considerably after the contracting with the environmental
justice coordinator, Ken McGhee from the Center for Colla-
borative Policy, but shrank significantly after summer 2003
when Guzman retired from the chair position and through
2004 when contention with CALFED management was grow-
ing. CALFED staff participation grew considerably through
2004 when contention between Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee members and CALFED was high, but shrank to
participation by just McGhee in 2005, in the months leading to
dissolution of the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee.
Overall institutional representation – indexed by number of
institutions or organizations present at a given meeting –
initially grew then generally declined from early 2003 onward.
The Environmental Justice Sub-Committee’s legal author-
ity was unclear to most within the committee and possibly to
other interested parties, probably contributing to its varying
attendance and eventual demise. The Environmental Justice
Sub-Committee was initially looked to by CALFED member
agencies as a possible clearing-house for environmental
justice issues (Environmental Justice Sub-Committee meeting
minutes 3/21/03). Environmental Justice Sub-Committee
members felt that this might be an appropriate role, but no
formal or apparent authority or responsibility was given to the
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee to provide input on any
CALFED Program. In theory, the chairs would represent the
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee’s interests on the
BDPAC and the coordinator would provide access to CALFED
management and staff. However, as described above, after the
resignation of the original chairs in 2003, the Environmental
Justice Sub-Committee was without representation on BDPAC.
During 2002, the coordinator position was filled part-time
by CALFED staff Dan Wermiel (later with the CALFED
Watershed Program). Starting in January 2003, CALFED
contracted with McGhee to provide full-time coordination
for the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee. He was funded
full-time, but questions remained throughout the life of the
Environmental Justice program as to how this position
actually achieved the environmental justice goals of the
ROD. Coordinator McGhee functioned primarily to convene
the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee, facilitate commu-
nication between the sub-committee and other CBDA com-
mittees and staff, and to develop program plans and budgets.
McGhee’s position had a personal and structural dimen-
sion that spurred conflict. As an African-American man,
McGhee seemed to serve as a positive response to the
environmental justice representative’s demand for greater
attention to race in CALFED. However, some members of the
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee objected to the fact
that while African-American, McGhee’s lack of experience
Fig. 3 – Attendance and institutional representation at CALFED EJSC meetings. Number of individuals per institutional
categories shown in the legend. The index of institutional representation represents the absolute number of institutions/
organizations attending a specific meeting. Meetings were held regularly (monthly), but not all were officially recorded with
meeting minutes. The last three meetings shown were indexed using Shilling’s notes.
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709 701
with environmental justice created an illegitimate basis for
leadership. One former member of the Environmental Justice
Sub-Committee commented, ‘‘Ken... wasn’t an expert in [EJ].
He knew a little by attending some of the CEJAC (California
Environmental Justice Advisory Committee) meetings and
other trainings, but... he didn’t have any grassroots founda-
tion in [EJ].’’ Many also noted that McGhee was not given the
resources he needed to succeed in his role, and was effectively
positioned as one Environmental Justice Sub-Committee
member said, at the ‘‘bottom of the chain in CALFED... he
had to depend on student interns to help him. And plus, he
said... they disrespected him by putting his office next to the
toilet!’’ One environmental justice activist explained some
anger towards McGhee: ‘‘I don’t blame him for the ills of EJ. It’s
definitely the agencies’ fault, but I blame him for allowing
himself for being used like that.’’ Even a member of CALFED’s
governing body, the CBDA, observed how hiring a person of
color may have limited, not expanded the attention to race and
equity in CALFED:
[T]hey hired a person of color. They hired an African
American...I think what happens when the thinking about
environmental issues and environmental justice issues
becomes polarized, as had been, is that some folks
will...probably unwittingly...think, ‘Ok, well, we hired a
person of color to run this committee, so...they’re all taking
care of themselves. We’re addressing it, you know? We’re
letting them do their thing, and...we’re funding it. So,
aren’t we done now?’ (Personal Interview, 2007).
A member of the Drinking Water Sub-Committee noted
that the tension over McGhee (with original emphasis),
‘‘illustrated the fact that having a coordinator is not what
you need because the charge of the Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee was ensuring that environmental justice was
incorporated into all of CALFED’s programs and policies. And,
how on earth is one sub-committee with one coordinator going to
do that?’’ This ghettoization of environmental justice within
one sub-committee, instead of its incorporation across the
entire CALFED structure may have been the greatest impedi-
ment to its success. In many ways, this represented the
invisibility of the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee
within the bureaucratized democracy of CALFED and its
absolute lack of authority.
6.2. Un-recognized injustice: scientific rationality,
contested knowledge, and access to resources
‘‘[T]he people who sat at the table and signed the ROD may
have had the best of intentions... The fact is that people
implementing on the ground didn’t have the same
commitment... At every single turn, every opportunity
they had to advocate in the budget process for money to
fund this, they didn’t...They just completely failed. It was
not a priority.’’ – Environmental Justice Advocate, Focus
Group, 2007.
Espeland’s (2000:1102) description of the privileging of
‘‘expert knowledge’’ over ‘‘practical knowledge’’ to margin-
alize indigenous knowledge of the Yavapai Nation opponents
to the Orme Dam in Arizona provides a useful entry into the
second layer of marginalization of environmental justice
within CALFED. Expert knowledge, embodied as rational,
technical, academically credentialed, and coded as white and
male are used to construct and legitimate ‘‘regulatory science’’
and policy (Jasanoff, 1990). By extension, the vast population of
those with ‘‘merely’’ experiential, embodied, local, or indi-
genous knowledge – and coded as non-white and (sometimes)
female – are considered ‘‘an inferior source of authority’’
(Espeland, 2000:1102). This model of exclusive rationality and
expert roles has been critiqued both for its disempowering
effects on its subjects and for its dismissal of valuable
knowledge in the form of ‘‘street science’’ (Corburn, 2005),
‘‘civic/citizen science’’ (Fortmann, 2008), and ‘‘popular epide-
miology’’ (Brown, 2007) in the identification of environmental
health problems and the forging of innovative solutions. One
way that community interests can access the privileged circles
of expert knowledge is through access to resources to address
issues critical to community and environmental justice, using
the scientific tools of the privileged. It was the lack of resources
for research and lack of respect afforded the knowledge and
expertise of the members of CALFED’s environmental justice
committee and their broader constituencies by the CALFED
leadership that provoked much of the anger and conflict in the
The Environmental Justice Sub-Committee and Environ-
mental Justice program had little access to funding for
research and coordination, especially compared to that
afforded the rest of the CALFED program. Until late 2002,
the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee and program did
not have a budget that could support projects recommended
by the sub-committee, a grant program, technical staff, or
travel/stipend support for sub-committee members. This is in
contrast to the other CBDA programs, which each had these
resources. Starting in 2002, $250,000 was budgeted by CALFED
for the Environmental Justice program for each fiscal year. In
the first year, half of these funds were contracted to Jones &
Stokes Associates (J&SA), a private consulting firm, to provide
various services. Despite consuming half of the already minor
budget, these services were limited to summarizing 1-year of
occasional environmental justice workshops, developing one
Power Point presentation on the Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee, and a report on possible environmental justice-
related GIS sources for the CALFED solution area. Upon
learning of this contract, the Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee demanded of the coordinator a full accounting of
the first year’s funding, especially for the contract with J&SA.
This accounting was not provided to the Environmental
Justice Sub-Committee and the resources available to fund
environmental justice research in CALFED remained opaque
and unavailable to the committee.
The continuing resources available to the Environmental
Justice Sub-Committee and the nascent Environmental Justice
program consisted of a Census data mapping project by staff at
the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
(supported by CALFED’ Watershed Program) and a full-time
coordinator who reported to then-Deputy Director Joe Grind-
staff. While not considered on the official budget, a major
resource of the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee was
their contribution of volunteer time and effort, totaling
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709702
thousands of hours from organizations with few resources
In 2004 the proposed budget for CALFED was $606 million/
year (Table 1). The proposed budget for the oversight and
coordination program, of which the Environmental Justice
Program was a small part, was $12 million/year. The
Environmental Justice program’s portion was proposed by
CALFED staff to be $335,000/year (the highest ever proposed),
which amounted to 0.06% of the overall CALFED budget. An
interesting facet of the conflict between the Environmental
Justice Sub-Committee and CALFED staff was that the CALFED
web site provides the Environmental Justice Program’s budget
and work-plan proposed by staff in 2004, amounting to
$335,000/year. It does not provide the budget and work-plan
proposed by the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee
amounting to $1,342,400/year. The latter included specific
projects recommended by the Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee to advance understanding about disproportionate
impacts to farm worker, rural, and Native American commu-
nities in the CALFED study area (e.g., community impacts from
market-based water transfers). This was the only work plan
among the CALFED programs where disproportionate impacts
were proposed to be evaluated, but was strongly opposed by
management and contributed to dissolution of the Environ-
mental Justice Sub-Committee. The lack of these resources
prevented the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee and its
members from participating in the ‘‘legitimate’’ scientific
rationality of CALFED and its authority over water.
6.3. Distributed injustice: marginalization of
environmental justice issues in CALFED
Some analysts of collaborative governance have lauded the
flexibility and reduction in conflict possible when public policy
is developed through a consensus-building process as
opposed to command and control or adversarial modes
(Wondolleck et al., 1996; Carpenter and Kennedy, 1988). These
modes of ‘‘governance-beyond-the-state’’ that integrate state,
capital and civil society domains are described as increasing
the inclusiveness and democratic nature of policy formation
and implementation (Schmitter, 2002). Many of the accounts
of CALFED (e.g., Innes et al., 2006, 2007) have approvingly
highlighted the effort’s collaborative and informal character-
istics. Compared to the dysfunctional and conflict-laden
landscape of California’s water wars, it is not unreasonable
to view the increased collaboration within CALFED as a
significant achievement. However, to understand the fru-
strated experience of environmental justice within CALFED, it
is necessary to look beyond these limited accounts.
Pellow (1999a,b) develops a useful complex of the colla-
borative governance and conflict resolution/consensus litera-
ture by describing how grassroots environmental and
environmental justice organizations combine negotiation
and confrontation. Pellow (1999a:202) describes as ‘‘infrapo-
litics’’ the ‘‘actions that members of less powerful groups take
that are often disguised or veiled in the form of accommoda-
tion.’’ Infrapolitics can be used to understand the strategies of
the environmental justice stakeholders within CALFED,
partially explaining why a process devoted to resolving
conflicts provoked such heated conflicts with a particular
set of its participants.
Swyngedouw (2005) astutely captures the ambiguous
politics of governance-beyond-the-state as represented by a
two-faced ‘‘Janus’’ with one face looking toward increased
democratization and inclusiveness and the other face trained
on the imposition of a dominant market throughout society.
First, Swyngedouw (2005:1997) observes that what Foucault
(1991) calls ‘‘governmentality’’ or ‘‘the rationalities and tactics
of governing and how they become expressed in particular
technologies of governing’’ involves a reconfiguration of the
state vis a vis capital and civil society. This reconfiguration
itself is composed of the externalization of state functions
through privatization, deregulation, and decentralization, a
scaling up of national to transnational governing bodies, and a
scaling down of national to state, regional, or local governing
bodies (2005:1998). All of these restructuring processes can be
understood as being ‘‘embedded in a consolidating neo-liberal
ideological polity.’’ This ideological polity is biased towards
the interests of the economic, socio-cultural, and political
elites but in ways that are not transparent and therefore
difficult to challenge. It is this ‘‘proliferating maze of opaque
networks, fuzzy institutional arrangements, ill-defined
responsibilities and ambiguous political objectives and prio-
rities’’ in the reinvented and collaborative governance that
leads Swyngedouw to caution against rejection of formal state
procedures and structures. Swyngedouw (2005:2003) observes
that the collaborative governance-beyond-the-state has
further biased social power towards ‘‘those who accept
playing by the rules set from within the elite networks’’ and
those ‘‘associated with the drive towards marketization and
has diminished the participatory status of groups associated
with social democratic or anti-privatization strategies.’’
It is precisely this scenario that we argue has occurred
within CALFED and that it is the very elements so often lauded
about CALFED – its collaborative governance model, composed
of opaque networks and fuzzy institutional arrangements
controlled by elites – that led to the marginalization of
environmental justice issues and advocates within its process.
The marginalization of the distributive elements of
environmental justice within CALFED can be seen in the need
Table 1 – Proposed CALFED 10-year finance plan (Octo-
ber, 2004 draft). The Environmental Justice program is
within the ‘‘Oversight & coordination’’ program.
Program Proposed
annual budget
($ in millions)
% of total
Ecosystem restoration 150.0 24.7
Water use efficiency 132.5 21.9
Storage 102.8 17.0
Drinking water quality 52.2 8.6
Levees 42.8 7.1
Environmental water account 40.7 6.7
Science 29.8 4.9
Watershed 25.0 4.1
Conveyance 18.2 3.0
Oversight & coordination 11.7 1.9
Environmental justice 0.34 0.06
Water transfers 0.6 0.1
Total 606.4 100
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709 703
of environmental justice activists outside the collaborative
system to get their issues addressed. One notable example is
SB 8 legislation by Sheila Kuhl (D-Santa Monica) that sought to
compel CALFED to address environmental justice issues. SB 8
would have changed the status of environmental justice from
a general CALFED policy to a specific program element as
called for in the record of decision, thus providing the leverage
necessary to ensure that agencies address advocates’ con-
cerns. Senator Kuhl’s office’s fact sheet on the bill provides a
useful encapsulation of the issues that environmental justice
activists perceived were not being addressed within CALFED.
Any construction of new dams or raising of existing dams
must take into account how that construction would affect
the local population. The raising of the Shasta Dam, for
example, could flood sacred tribal burial grounds of the
Winnemem Wintu.
Communities that still get most of their supply from
groundwater are finding wells contaminated with arsenic
and other toxic substances from pesticides in agricultural
run-off. High levels of other contaminants have also been
found in urban creeks and watersheds.
Scientists are finding a high number of mercury-contami-
nated fish in the Bay-Delta. This could pose a major public
health problem, especially for subsistence anglers who
depend on fish for their diet. There is also a lack of outreach
to low-income communities and communities of color on
the dangers of eating mercury-contaminated fish.
More investigation is needed on how water transfers impact
surface and groundwater rights of communities at the point
of origin.
Equal investments must be made in upgrading levee and
flood control systems across all affected communities
regardless of income. There also needs to be some way of
assuring that low-income communities in the flood plain do
not have any greater risk of flooding than any other
community in that area.
As notable as its need for being written is its veto by
Governor Schwartzenegger. Kuhl’s colleague state Senator
Fran Pavley’s office described the defeat, ‘‘In his veto message,
the Governor said, ‘My administration will continue to work
with environmental and community organizations to address
environmental justice issues in the public forums that have
been established for that purpose.’ However, it was precisely
because his administration has not worked with environ-
mental and community groups that the bill was introduced.’’
In early 2005, Environmental Justice Sub-Committee
members recommended that, consistent with the ROD, all
program plans developed by CALFED should consider the
environmental justice implications of their recommended
actions. There was no action on this recommendation for
several months. When the Environmental Justice Sub-Com-
mittee questioned this inaction, they were informed that one
option would be for its members to volunteer to review (by-
then) late-stage drafts of each program’s plan and recommend
how environmental justice could be incorporated. This was in
the context of no information being given about how the
recommendations could or would be dealt with. Late-stage
drafts were made available to the Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee members starting in mid-February, 2005. CALFED
held formal hearings on the program plans 3 weeks later.
Eventually, several members did review program plans and
made a number of suggestions, several of which were
incorporated into the final document text.
By late 2004, attendance in the Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee by most community groups, agencies, and other
institutionshad ceased,therewereclearbarrierswithin CALFED
to implementing environmental justice projects and processes,
and resources were limited. By May, 2005, the six remaining
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee members were expres-
sing frustration over accessto CALFED decision-making, control
over the committee’s agenda, and lack of reflection of environ-
mental justice priorities and concerns in any program plan.
CALFED’s responsewas that these concerns could be dealt with
at a later meeting, a meeting that never occurred.
At about this same time, Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee hosted members of the Winnemum-Wintu tribe
as they sought allies to oppose the flooding of their ancestral
and sacred lands by the raising of the Shasta Dam. The
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee also began to push
harder on the idea of disproportionate impacts of market-
based water transfers. This increased pressure on CALFED to
shift its priorities resulted in greater negative attention from
CALFED directors. Coincident with the impending termination
of McGhee’s contract was the resignation of the remaining
Environmental Justice Sub-Committee members. All members
agreed that without a coordinator, a process for engaging
CALFED, and without any apparent responsibilities or
resources, there was no point in their meeting. One former
member of the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee
recounted the decision to withdraw from CALFED:
It was just ridiculous, you know? They would basically strip
out anything useful and say, ‘OK, here’s your draft.’ We’d
say, ‘OK, this is worthless ...Can we sit down at the table
and can we all talk? You know, raise the issues and talk
about them?’ ‘No, no, no, [the agency would say] ‘We’ll try
and do a new draft. Put your comments in.’ And [the
coordinator] would do that and he’d send it around to all
the agencies. All the stuff would get ripped out again. We
were in this endless cycle. That’s when we were like, ‘this is
ridiculous. We’re not going to do this anymore.’
The dissolution of the Environmental Justice Sub-Commit-
tee was ultimately in response to its challenge of one of the
Janus faces of water governance, representing the interests of
the economic, socio-cultural, and political elites (Swynge-
douw, 2005).
7. New avenues for environmental justice in
the Bay-Delta
7.1. The CALFED environmental justice framework
Even after the demise of the Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee, some within CALFED are still attempting to salvage
an ‘‘Environmental Justice Framework.’’ This framework’s
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709704
overarching theme is to not create an Environmental Justice
program, but to rather ‘embed it in every aspect of CALFED’.
While this cross-cutting strategy was earlier advocated by some
of the environmental justice community, the approach also
couplesa more problematic element of incorporating guidelines
for social impact assessments – tied to the ‘‘logical structure of
California Environmental Quality Act’’ and in consultation with
a technical advisory committee ofacademics and scientists – on
proposed water projects associated with CALFED.
The Framework generally calls for establishing (a) an
environmental justice coordinator and staff, (b) a transparent
process of authority and information-sharing between all
stakeholders in developing and implementing policies, pro-
grams, or activities, and (c) an enlarged capacity for greater
public outreach and enhanced performance measures to
ensure environmental justice as stated in federal and state law
is implemented. While a positive step, there are no funds
allocated for any of these activities and discussions about
developing this framework is mainly limited to one California
Bay-Delta Authority member, Paula Daniels, and outside
consultants. Despite good intentions, the Framework is
problematic in its approach to justice: it restricts environ-
mental justice to mitigating for third party impacts and
developed through a process with limited credibility with the
environmental justice community it seeks to engage.
7.2. Delta Vision
With the failure of CALFED and continuing Legislative and
regulatory requirements for better Bay-Delta management, the
DV process was created by Governor Schwarzeneggerto take on
the mantle of water authority. The DV process is composed of
several hierarchical layers. At the top of the pyramid is a
Steering Committee composed of five state agency secretaries
reporting to the Governor. In turn a Blue Ribbon Task Force
made up of scientists and policy experts reports to the Steering
Committee. Finally, there is an invitation-only Stakeholder
Coordination Group (SCG). The SCG provides the only formal
stakeholder input into the process. Three of the 43 members of
this group are the official environmental justice representa-
tives, forming the smallest of the caucuses in the SCG (most
which, including agriculture,water supply, water quality and so
on, have 6–7 members each). One of the three environmental
justice stakeholders on the SCG observed that her inclusion on
the group can be considered one of the ‘‘good things CALFED
did’’ by bringing her and her environmental justice focus onto
the invitation list. This environmental justice advocate also
noted that contraryto CALFED, environmental justiceis seen as
a potential cross-cutting issue within the SCG and therefore
gained unanimous support for an environmental justice
statement in their recommendations: ‘‘The water agencies like
it because we talk about the costs of water to disadvantaged
communities. Irrigated Ag likes it because we talk about
impacts on farm labor. There was some piece of it where we
talked about subsistence fishing, so fishermen liked it.’’
(Personal Interview, 2007). The view of environmental justice
as an ‘‘umbrella’’ – the term used by one environmental justice
advocate – able to incorporate the broad sweep of interactions
between humans and nature illustrates the powerful potential
of this concept.
However, despite this internal support for environmental
justice, the issue seems to have received limited support
within the larger Delta Vision process. In fact, as of November
2007, and with a year remaining before the final Delta ‘‘vision’’
was due to be drafted, the SCG was notified that it had one
meeting left before being disbanded. In addition, the environ-
mental justice statement was not included in the official SCG
report developed by Delta Vision staff. The aggregation by SCG
staff of stakeholder choices and needs into a general model of
policy recommendations represented a de-humanization of
the problems inherent to water policy formulation. This
‘‘rational structure’’ model (Espeland, 2000) of the SCG is
essentially a fall-back to previous public input processes, prior
to CALFED, and represents a regressive rather than progres-
sive step in the advancement of environmental justice in
California water policy. In public workshops for the Delta
Vision, including one in December 2007, environmental justice
was not detectable as an area of concern for Delta decision-
makers. In the most recent draft report of the Delta Vision
Committee, November 25, 2008, there was no mention at all of
environmental justice.
8. Discussion
Despite CALFED’s self and scholarly branding as ‘‘innovative,’’
‘‘collaborative,’’ and ‘‘inclusive,’’ (Innes et al., 2007) its
experiment with environmental justice proved to be nothing
of the sort. An environmental justice advocate and member of
the Environmental Justice Sub-Committee claimed CALFED
dealt with environmental justice the way it did because of
‘‘racism, at the top of the list.’’ (Personal Interview, 2007). The
evidence provided throughout this article speaks to how
This lack of mention is striking in that in earlier drafts of the
Stakeholders Coordination Group to the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon
Task Force, explicit and detailed policy targets on environmental
justice were included (August 21, 2007).
1. Public health impacts resulting from mercury or other water
contaminants in Delta waters.
2. Impacts on drinking water quality, both surface and ground-
water supplies.
3. Impacts on potable drinking water availability due to any
proposed changes in surface or groundwater rights or changes
in current patterns of use, and the potential for communities
currently lacking potable water to benefit from changes in Delta
4. Targeted assessments of risk to low-income communities and
communities of color from catastrophic events and of the
potential for these communities to benefit from emergency
response planning.
5. Effect on employment opportunities or other community
resources or the potential to improve economic conditions
including job creation, resulting from any policy changes of
Delta Vision.
6. Any changes in the cost of domestic water and the impacts on
affordability for low-income communities and communities of
7. Ecosystem changes that may impact access to cultural
resources, especially salmon and other river-related resources
critical to maintaining particular Native American cultures.
8. The impacts on land-use, affordable housing and quality of life
due to the proposed SCG visions.
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709 705
environmental justice in CALFED can be conceived as a
‘canary in the coal-mine’: the initiative’s broader commit-
ments and capacities relative to communicative planning and
to equity as planning principal and outcome were impacted by
the institutionalized patterns of power, inequities, and
resistance within Western water management and policy.
Indeed, environmental justice in CALFED did not occur in a
black box isolated from greater social currents. Rather, it has
proved to be a useful lens through which to analyze the larger
race and class-based power relationships that shaped the
‘‘privileged access and accounts’’ (Freudenburg, 2005) built
into the structure of Bay-Delta planning and the politics of
water in California and the rest of the Western United States.
Reflecting on this phenomenon at attempting to work toward
a ‘‘socially structured theory of resources and discourses,’’
Freudenburg notes:
Environmental harms involve a ‘‘double diversion’’ – two
forms of privilege that deserve greater attention. The first
involves disporportionality, or the privileged diversion of
rights/resources: Contrary to common assumptions, much
environmental damage is not economically ‘‘necessary’’ –
instead, it represents privileged access to the environment.
It is made possible in part by the second diversion – the
diversion of attention,ordistraction – largely through taken
for granted or privileged accounts, which are rarely
questioned, even in leftist critiques (2005, pp. 90).
The ‘‘privileged access’’ (Freudenburg, 2005) to water in
California, from conquest to reclamation and to current water
market formation, has been achieved through the ‘‘privileged
account’’ of necessity of a system of relationships whereby
‘‘free’’ and ‘‘voluntary’’ buyers and sellers enter into a trade of
water, while ‘‘third party’’ impacts from the transaction are
mitigated. The ‘‘iron triangle’’ of agencies, urban users, and
irrigated agriculture and now emergent (mainstream) envir-
onmental groups are afforded a seat at the table of power and
the privileged access to water, while the third parties exercise
ceremonial participation, or ‘‘input’’ in the process before,
during, and after they are impacted. As illustrated in this
article, this privileged access is made possible by the taken-
for-granted or privileged accounts: water marketing is
‘‘rational’’ and ‘‘efficient,’’ and only the ‘‘legitimate’’ voices
and programs to ensure this model will continue to be the
most funded and given the highest priority. In this model,
environmental justice and its advocates are marginal stake-
holders with no seat at the table, as is the perspective they
represent: the third parties who are impacted by market-based
water transfers but have relatively no autonomous voice or
The emergence of environmental justice within CALFED
offered the opportunity for a new, more democratic and
collaborative way to manage water in California (Innes et al.,
2006). Because such access to decision-making had pre-
viously been lacking, even cynics within the environmental
justice groups considered this a possible opportunity to
influence the disposition of water as a public trust resource
(London et al., 2008). Within 3 years however, the golden
opportunity had dissolved, leaving in its wake even greater
cynicism about the state agencies’ interest in sharing control
over what was increasingly a privatized resource and one
managed under privileged decision-making processes. The
reduction of trust that accompanied the treatment of
environmental justice by CALFED makes it even harder to
reconcile differences between agencies and community
groups representing low-income communities and commu-
nities of color, leading to end-run solutions, such as acts of
The primary factor that seemed to result in the dissolution
of CALFED’s environmental justice process was the disconnect
between the understanding of the scope and implications of
environmental justice held by the environmental justice
advocates and the agency representatives. Where the agencies
appeared to view environmental justice as a process con-
straint and something to carefully control, environmental
justice advocates presented a broader vision of democratic
governance that would fundamentally restructure the govern-
ance relationships between communities, natural resources,
the state and the market. This tension is a hallmark of the
tension within collaborative governance-beyond-the-state
(Swyngedouw, 2005) between the power-haves and the
There were few discernible impacts on water policy of the
inclusion of environmental justice into the CALFED process.
The use of the term environmental justice has become more
common in water policy documents, but implementation is
more about ‘‘checking the environmental justice box’’ than
inclusion of community groups dangerous to an otherwise
controlled process. The evidence for this lies in Delta Vision’s
abandonment of an open stakeholder process, increased
distance between the decision-makers and interested parties,
and the absence of proposed policies that will serve broad
environmental and community goals.
One regressive result of this experiment has been
the replacement of the highly democratic model of
‘‘membership-by-attendance’’ advisory committee struc-
ture, characterized by the Environmental Justice Sub-
Committee and CALFED’s Watershed Sub-Committee with
a ‘‘stakeholder-by-invitation’’ model. This second model is
currently used by the Delta Vision, California Watershed
Program, and California Environmental Protection Agency’s
environmental justice processes. This form of rational
structure and participation is consistent with other histor-
ical applications of public involvement in water policy (e.g.,
Bureau of Reclamation (Espeland, 2000)). It represents a
devolution (from democracy and participation points-of-
view) from the open structures of both the Environmental
Justice and Watershed Sub-Committees within CALFED. It
also assumes that agency selection of representatives is a
valid replacement for self-selection and ‘‘speaking for
ourselves’’ that characterizes environmental justice actors
and movements.
9. Conclusions and recommendations
The policy framework of CALFED (e.g., the ROD) and its legal
bases (state and federal statutes) set the stage for agency
application of environmental justice in CALFED decision-
making. Yet as with all social justice struggles (e.g., the United
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709706
Farm Workers, see Ganz, 2000) implementation often depends
on outside advocates and watch-dogs. Unfortunately, in this
case, there was no consistent application of strategy and
tactics by environmental justice advocates in CALFED. Any
attempt to be assertive in ways typical of social justice
struggles (e.g., declarations of support for Native water rights,
attempts to control representation of environmental justice
on the BDPAC) were met with either indifference or heavy-
handed antagonism by CALFED management. In retrospect,
the lead author, also a participant, detected a ‘‘wait-and-see’’
attitude by most participants, reticence on the part of over-
loaded environmental justice advocates to devote energy, take
advantage of opportunities to affect decision-making, and
faith in positive outcomes. In the heavily politicized world of
water wrangling, this approach was too laissez-faire and lacked
the assertiveness that has characterized successful social
struggles in California. Given the significant and long-lasting
effects that Delta-centered water policy can have on many
communities throughout California, a new process of engage-
ment is warranted, potentially through statutory and legal
To successfully engage communities and the public and to
implement environmental justice, water policy programs
need a new start and a new face. However, this does not
mean reinventing the wheel, as others have laid out elements
of such a framework (Arnstein, 1969; Hester, 2006; London,
2007) that address both the degrees of community inclusion
and the degrees of authority within decision-making and
planning processes. Based on experience within the Environ-
mental Justice Sub-Committee and other attempts at envir-
onmental justice in the state, the following basic rules
apparently should apply: (1) provide sufficient resources for
all stakeholder parties to participate; (2) allow sufficient time
prior to decisions for an honest dialogue to form and paths
forward to be forged; (3) share real power over decisions
among the involved and affected parties.
From the point-of-view of a collaborative planning and
decision process, several models can be drawn for water
policy (Fig. 4). These models range from the least (A) to most
(D) collab orative on a continu um. The second from th e left ‘‘B:
Informative/Responsive’’ reflects the experience of Environ-
mental Justice Sub-Committee members, who were occa-
sionally given the chance to comment on pre-formulated
plans. This is contrasted with the ‘‘C: Inclusive’’ model
enjoyed by other programs within CALFED. For future efforts,
we recommend a further improvement, represented by the
‘‘D: Collaborative’’ model. This reflects the power-sharing
and inclusive process that should accompany decision-
making about this critical public trust resource – water,
where all have a seat at the table. This model also integrates
Fig. 4 – Simplified collaborative decision-making processes. (A) is the least collaborative and (D) is the most collaborative.
environmental science & policy 12 (2009) 694–709 707
environmental justice and community voice through all of
the elements of the policy process and does not marginalize it
within any one dimension or by including it only by ‘‘retrofit. ’’
It is not clear that the momentum of concentrated power
within water management in California, wrapped as it is
within layers and histories of conquest, racism and market
rationales, would allow for such a radical departure. It is clear
that to achieve the promise of the CALFED ROD and
democratization of water management, such a model is
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... At the same time, environmental agencies convening governance forums often perceive contending with power differences as beyond the scope of their work and mission of their agency (Harrison, 2017;Kohl, 2019). As a result ecosystem-centered governance, policies, programs, and practices do not always democratize decision-making or reduce inequalities (Bullard, 2007;Agyeman, 2008;Shilling et al., 2009;Harrison, 2015Harrison, , 2019Konisky, 2015;George and Reed, 2017;Dobbin and Lubell, 2021). That is: effective ecosystem governance outcomes are not synonymous with improvements in environmental justice (i.e., Holifield, 2004;Shilling et al., 2009;Harrison, 2019). ...
... As a result ecosystem-centered governance, policies, programs, and practices do not always democratize decision-making or reduce inequalities (Bullard, 2007;Agyeman, 2008;Shilling et al., 2009;Harrison, 2015Harrison, , 2019Konisky, 2015;George and Reed, 2017;Dobbin and Lubell, 2021). That is: effective ecosystem governance outcomes are not synonymous with improvements in environmental justice (i.e., Holifield, 2004;Shilling et al., 2009;Harrison, 2019). Ecosystem governance has the potential to derail environmental justice altogether (Newig and Fritsch, 2009;Schweitzer and Kim, 2009;Shilling et al., 2009;Lange et al., 2013;Latulippe and Klenk, 2020;Alsip et al., 2021). ...
... That is: effective ecosystem governance outcomes are not synonymous with improvements in environmental justice (i.e., Holifield, 2004;Shilling et al., 2009;Harrison, 2019). Ecosystem governance has the potential to derail environmental justice altogether (Newig and Fritsch, 2009;Schweitzer and Kim, 2009;Shilling et al., 2009;Lange et al., 2013;Latulippe and Klenk, 2020;Alsip et al., 2021). ...
Full-text available
In North America, Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) were established to remediate aquatic pollution in 1987 as part of a binational agreement between the United State of America and Canada. Although the action preceded formal environmental injustice acknowledgment, the AOC program's effort to remediate legacy pollutants includes language with the potential to accomplish core goals of EJ: democratizing decision-making and reducing disproportionate environmental burden. Yet, in AOCs, discussions of public engagement regarding AOC work tend to define participation institutionally (i.e., the state, market, and civil society) rather than by racial or socioeconomic inclusivity. Understanding how AOC governance processes consider representation of, and benefit to communities negotiating remediation decisions from positions of systemic disadvantage requires addressing the relationship between ecosystem-centered governance modes and environmental justice. In this study, interviews with governance actors reveal that concern for EJ issues wield different forms of authority as ecosystem-centered governance and environmental justice couple, decouple, and uncouple. Changes in coupling correspond with shifts in ecosystem-centric governance mode, but coupling does not rely on any one particular governance arrangement. Instead, coupling relies on leadership practices and conceptions of fairness that are EJ-responsive and present EJ as indistinct from ecosystem goals and targets. Our findings reinforce the assertion that ecosystem-centered governance can be reimagined to better facilitate EJ even without changes in financial and regulatory constraints. We conclude by proposing empirical measures that advance EGM-EJ qualitative scholarship and practical advice about how to cultivate EJ-responsive leadership in ecosystem-centered governance arrangements.
... However, fish contaminants (e.g. mercury, dioxins; Burger, 2004) are a concern in some urban areas, making it important to complement research on participatory processes for engaging affected groups (Shilling, 2009) with metacoupling analyses to identify the social-ecological and political mechanisms linking pollution, fish contamination, and human health. ...
Although social-ecological fisheries research is growing, comparatively little attention is paid to fisheries in urban environments. We aim to address this imbalance, because as cities expand worldwide, we expect urban fisheries to become more widespread and important in providing food/nutrition security, recreation, community well-being, and other benefits to fisheries stakeholders and urban dwellers across spatiotemporal scales. This paper contains a first analysis of the economic and sociocultural provisions, trade-offs, and dilemmas associated with urban fisheries to yield insights for sustainable management and planning of urban blue space. To address these objectives, we use the metacoupling framework, a method for assessing human-nature interactions within and across adjacent and distant fisheries systems. We use examples from multiple countries and data from the United States to illustrate how urban fisheries encompass flows of people, money, and information across multiple spatiotemporal scales and provide nutritional, recreational, social, and cultural benefits to fisheries stakeholders. Throughout the world, urban fisheries are influenced by wide-ranging human needs (e.g. food provisioning, recreation, aquatic resource education) that generate social-ecological effects within and beyond cities. Our analysis yields insights for developing holistic, metacoupling-informed management approaches that address the diverse social-ecological objectives and trade-offs involved in sustainable development of urban fisheries.
... One concern is that it focuses too much on community structure and not enough on context, content, or change (Borgatti, Brass, and Halgin 2014). By doing so, it runs the risk of 'marginalization by collaboration' or for consensus to dismiss marginalized groups as having 'niche' concerns or knowledge contributions that do not necessarily align with the dominant understanding (Shilling, London, and Liévanos 2009). In this way, focusing on the community level structure may lead to homogenization across a network, thereby muting divergent perspectives and the contexts in which they develop and change. ...
Environmental education research often emphasizes the importance of community context, but conceptualization and measurement of environmental literacy has mostly occurred at the individual level, often focusing on individual behaviors. The environmental problems facing the world today require collective action—communities coming together to address large-scale problems. Accordingly, understanding and encouraging collective action requires a shift in focus from individual to community-level environmental literacy (CLEL). Despite its importance, CLEL has been left largely undefined and unmentioned in environmental education literature. To understand the field’s current conceptualizations and measurement strategies around CLEL, the authors held a convening of 24 researchers to discuss the topic. Here, we report the findings of this convening and present a series of tensions that emerged in conceptualizing and measuring CLEL. We see this area of research as rich with opportunity for innovation and offer considerations for researchers engaging in this work.
... However, procedural justice in EJ movements is a concept distinct from the overall public participation in its focus on equal and authentic public participation (Gould, 1996;Lake, 1996;Young, 2002). More specifically, in environmental policy processes, equal participation requires not only the participation of the public but also ensures that marginalized and disadvantaged groups have a place at the table (Sarokin and Schulkin, 1994;Eden, 1996;Corburn, 2005;Fortmann, 2008;Shilling et al., 2009). Authentic participation requires that public input is taken seriously by authorities and is influential in final decisions (Cvetkovich and Earle, 1992;Hampton, 1999;Schlosberg, 2007). ...
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How does the organizational culture of local governments influence the type and extent of procedural justice in environmental policy processes? Using the culture theory developed by Mary Douglas and others, this research seeks to bring a new conception and new measures of organizational culture to the study of policy making by local governments. To contribute to the development of the conceptualization and measurement of procedural justice in the environmental policy processes of those governments, item response theory (IRT) graded response model (GRM) is used to show variations in difficulties and frequencies of adopting distinctive public participation strategies for improving procedural justice across local governments. In this study, original survey data is collected from Illinois municipalities and a finding is suggestive of cultural variables explaining the two dimensions of procedural justice, equal and authentic public participation, while other variables can, at best, explain only the equal public participation. Furthermore, as hypothesized, egalitarianism increases both equal and authentic public participation, individualism increases equal public participation, and fatalism decreases both.
... In order to change these unequal and unsustainable patterns, environmental justice investigates ways to include the communities most susceptible to environmental threats in the planning and decision making processes, thereby adjusting the disproportionality to which they are exposed, giving them a voice and increasing their authority in those management processes (Shilling et al. 2009). In order to achieve such inclusion, environmental justice authors propose a trifold approach, which involves: (I) the principle of distribution (equitable allocation of rights and responsibilities); (II) the principle of participation or procedural justice (role of affected individuals in decision-making); (III) the principle of recognition (acknowledgment of the diversity of each individual from affected communities) (Reese and Jacob 2015). ...
This book focuses on climate change and sustainable development, showcasing examples of research, projects and other initiatives aimed at educating various target groups. Helping readers gain a better understanding of the water, energy and food nexus challenges in the context of climate change, and featuring valuable insights that can be implemented in other areas, it will appeal to researchers and students as well as practitioners.
In this article, I address a set of recent publications that explicitly critique U.S. environmental justice (EJ) movements and scholars for looking to the state for protection from environmental harm. These publications have argued that U.S. EJ movements and scholars have become preoccupied with seeking justice through state institutions instead of through other routes of change, that they do so principally through overly cooperative practices that cede the terms of debate to the state, and that engaging with the state inherently perpetuates injustice. Their arguments make important, incisive contributions to EJ studies and raise sobering questions about EJ activists’ engagement with the state. In this article, I highlight some of these contributions, but I also critique their arguments on two grounds: First, drawing on various studies, I argue that these publications’ empirical characterizations of EJ activism understate the diversity of tactics EJ activists use. Second, I argue that they treat the state as a wholly and inevitably repressive instrument of capital, and that this leads them to make politically problematic recommendations that dismiss the ways in which states also serve other ends, can be made to do so more meaningfully, must be made to do so, and are being made to do so. Reductionist characterizations of the state too easily dismiss the prospects for change through the state—including reforms that are modest but nevertheless reduce harm as well as “nonreformist reforms” that more fundamentally support justice, all of which can be pursued through both collaborative and confrontational practices. I draw on recent theoretical and empirical research from political ecology, political geography, and Native American and Indigenous studies—scholarship that treats the state in a more relational fashion and which intersects with or exists largely outside of EJ studies—to theorize my arguments and provide illustrative examples.
Collaborative environmental governance seeks to engage diverse stakeholders to tackle complex challenges efficiently, sustainably, and equitably. However, mixed empirical evidence underscores a need to understand the conditions under which particularly equity is or is not achieved. Here, we use the empirical case of California Sustainable Groundwater Management to quantify the extent to which vulnerable small and rural drinking water users' needs are addressed in collaborative groundwater planning. Drawing on a diverse array of mixed method data, we then employ Boosted Regression and Classification Trees (BRCT) to assess potential driving factors including collaboration, representation, elite capture, stakeholder engagement, and problem severity/salience. We find each to be influential, highlighting their relevance for equitable planning. We also find evidence that these relationships are complex and outcome specific. Nonetheless, the overall effect on the three equity measures is modest at best. More institutional analysis of collaborative governance regimes from diverse contexts is needed to build a comprehensive understanding of how to meaningfully advance social and environmental equity in such decentralized reforms. Based on our results, we suggest the answer, if there is one, may transcend current focal domains such as stakeholder representation and engagement.
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Navigating the space between policy and on-the-ground natural resource management presents unique challenges. We interviewed 22 U.S. Bureau of Land Management Field Office Managers to understand their perceptions toward, and applications of, collaboration with public and private stakeholders. Interviews were transcribed and open-coded using qualitative data analysis software. Then, each interview was represented visually using the MaxQDA MaxMaps feature. We deductively coded each visual model and created a typology based on a mix of salient traits exhibited by each group. Differences emerged in each group’s approach to teaching and learning; communication style; attitude toward collaboration; attention to relational and substantive outcomes; and the ability to create space within the agency mission to achieve mutually beneficial goals. Findings can help agencies navigate the challenges associated with aligning agency directives with on-the-ground realities in different contexts when collaborators exhibit different traits.
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Consistent with federal anti-discrimination and environmental justice law and guidance, public transportation agencies must evaluate the extent to which their decisions benefit and burden different people and groups and they must also conduct public engagement during decision-making. Assessing benefits and burdens and facilitating engagement are critically important for achieving transportation equity. In practice, quantitative analyses of plan impacts can be used to highlight and mitigate disparate benefits and burdens, but analyses are often conducted after major decisions have already been made and agencies have substantial flexibility in data collection and analysis. Public engagement can also affect equity-related outcomes, but agencies still rely heavily on public meetings and one-way information dissemination approaches that alienate potential participants. Considering the shortcomings associated with quantitative analysis and traditional public engagement as well as the open-ended nature of existing regulatory guidance, there is a need to understand the broad range of approaches that public transit agencies use to pursue equity-related goals. In this review of practice, we summarize six measures that agencies are using to advance transportation equity. Each measure is described using information gleaned from semi-structured interviews and primary source materials. We also identify challenges and shortcomings inherent in each approach using perspectives from the academic literature. The results will be useful for practitioners seeking equitable public transit systems and desiring to go beyond the standard approaches suggested by federal law and guidance.
Water, energy and food are essential resources for human security. Therefore, synergies among these resources are essential to promote food security. Food security refers to the state of everyone, everywhere, having access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food at all times, which relies on the stability of food prices, international markets, food policies and the climate. The effects of climate change in Brazil threaten food security in the country, particularly due to the excessive reliance on rainfed agriculture and subsistence farming, which requires sustainable adaptation policies to manage this scenario. From the social sciences’ debates on sustainable policy-making, the concept of Environmental Justice refers to marginalized groups that are more exposed to harmful environmental impacts and do not benefit equally from positive environmental regulations and policies, consequently being placed in a scenario of greater food insecurity. In this regard, this study promotes a review of the literature to investigate the relations and possibilities of considering environmental justice concepts in food security decision-making in Brazil. Including the most vulnerable people in the decision-making process is a crucial tool to promote an effective approach for sustainable development, reducing the unintended effects of climate change on water, energy and food resources, essential for everyone’s wellbeing.