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Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: Why Race Still Matters After All of These Years

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In 1987 the United Church of Christ's (UCC) Commission for Racial Justice published its landmark report Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. The report documented disproportionate environmental burdens facing people of color and low-income communities across the country. The report sparked a national grassroots environmental justice movement and significant academic and governmental attention. In 2007, the UCC commissioned leading environmental justice scholars for a new report, Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the United States. In addition to commemorating and updating the 1987 report, the new report takes stock of progress achieved over the last twenty years. Although Toxic Wastes and Race has had tremendous positive impacts, twenty years after its release people of color and low-income communities are still the dumping grounds for all kinds of toxins. Using 2000 Census data, an updated database of commercial hazardous waste facilities, and newer methods that better match where people and hazardous sites are located, we found significant racial and socioeconomic disparities persist in the distribution of the nation's hazardous wastes facilities. We demonstrate that people of color are more concentrated around such facilities than previously shown. People of color are particularly concentrated in neighborhoods and communities with the greatest number of facilities and racial disparities continue to be widespread throughout the country. Moreover, hazardous waste host neighborhoods are composed predominantly of people of color. Race continues to be the predominant explanatory factor in facility locations and clearly still matters. Yet getting government to respond to the needs of low-income and people of color communities has not been easy, especially in recent years when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has mounted an all-out attack on environmental justice principles and policies established in the 1990s. Environmental injustice results from deeply-embedded institutional discrimination and will require the support of concerned individuals, groups, and organizations from various walks of life. The Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty report condensed in this Article provides dozens of recommendations for action at the federal, state, and local levels to help eliminate the disparities. The report also makes recommendations for nongovernmental organizations and industry. More than one hundred environmental justice, civil rights, human rights, faith based, and health allies signed a letter endorsing these steps to reverse recent backsliding, renewing the call for social, economic, and environmental justice for all. Congress has begun to listen and take action.
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available at http://sustainableproduction.org/downloads/C%20Guide%20Text.pdf and http://sustainableproduction.org/downloads/C%20Guide%20References.pdf (discussing clean production technology and implementation recommendations including tax policies)
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proposing elimination of subsidies in favor of green taxes
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Dumping on Houston's Black Neighborhoods
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