More than a decade after the first environmental justice (EJ) regulations were put in place with Executive Order 12898, the programs and initiatives associated with this mandate remain extremely broad in scope and intent. Compared to more traditional regulations that establish environmental performance criteria or standards, EJ regulations address both the process of making equitable decisions and their desired outcomes. In this respect, EJ regulations are both unusual and understudied. Because the regulatory requirements are so general in nature (e.g., building community capacity, improving public awareness and environmental education, and expanding public participation), their implementation has been piecemeal and few systematic evaluations have been done of the implementation process or the major outcomes of federal EJ programs. As states like California move forward with newer state-level EJ initiatives, there are important lessons to be learned from one of the earliest federal programs, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Justice Small Grants (EJSG) Program. Since 1994, more than 1,000 of these grants have been awarded to support communities in developing solutions to local environmental and public health problems. However, the collective impact of these investments has never been evaluated. By using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map the locations of grants made through this program, this paper documents patterns of investment and social and environmental change in the low-income and minority communities supported by the program. Major results reveal that EJ small grants are only in part being awarded to the types of communities intended to be served by the program, and only counties in certain EPA regions show improvement or reductions in toxic releases, while others show significant increases in total TRI releases before and after receiving EJ small grants. This assessment provides an important baseline from which to evaluate both federal and state EJ regulations and their implementation more broadly.
Building Community Capacity? Mapping the Scope and Impacts of the EPA Environmental Justice Small Grants Program
Working Paper by Shalini Vajjhala — April 25, 2007Download
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