Much of the discourse about regional and local economic development strategies in the United States over the past twenty-five years has looked like a search for general rules. Very few such rules have emerged, in part because—like all policy debates—there have been large inputs of ideology and self-interest, as well as professional inquiry, but in part because the appropriate strategies really are time- and place-specific.
The environmental justice movement asserts that low-income and minority neighborhoods are exposed to greater risks from environmental hazards than other neighborhoods because of racism and classism in the siting of locally undesirable land uses (LULUs), the promulgation of environmental and land use regulations, the enforcement of those regulations, and the effort spent on cleaning polluted areas. These claims, and the movement’s demands for a more equitable distribution of environmental “goods”, like clean air, and of environmental “bads”, like waste facilities, are increasingly central to deliberations about environmental and land use policy in the United States. President Clinton signed an Executive Order in February 1994 that requires every federal agency to “make achieving environmental justice part of its mission….” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a national Environmental Justice Office, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee, and environmental justice coordinators within each of its departments and regional offices in order to address environmental justice issues. Environmental impact statements prepared under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 5 (NEPA) now address environmental justice concerns. At least seven states have adopted legislation regarding environmental justice, and many more are now considering such legislation.