A new online resource highlights the achievements of environmental justice communities in advancing law and policy at the state level.
The Environmental Justice Clinic at Vermont Law and Graduate School (VLGS), in collaboration with American University, Taproot Earth, Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School, UC College of the Law San Francisco, University of Texas School of Law Austin Environmental Clinic and Lone Star Legal Aid, is launching the resource, Environmental Justice State by State.
The resource allows community advocates, attorneys, academics, reporters and policymakers to keep up to date on laws, policies, mapping tools and state-recognized definitions across the fifty US states and territories.
“The environmental justice landscape is changing rapidly because of communities building power and organizing to address structural inequality through changes to law and policy,” says Amy Laura Cahn, Legal Director at Taproot Earth and former director of the VLGS Environmental Justice Clinic. "Our hope is that this resource contributes to that momentum.”
Cahn says that at least 21 new state laws related to environmental justice have been enacted in 14 states in the last four years alone. The resource facilitates communities’ efforts to find models to change law and policy and to understand the protections they already have.
“Cumulative impacts policy is a prime example of where we have seen state and local environmental justice advocates lead the way,” notes Anna Yulsman, a researcher with the Tishman Center. “For instance, New Jersey environmental justice groups’ achievement of a landmark cumulative impacts law in 2020 shows how communities that already face multiple environmental burdens can and should be protected from additional pollution.”
The information in Environmental Justice State by State was drawn from a review of state legislative and legal databases, agency websites, news articles and reports. Students from participating institutions contacted public officials in every state and territory and were able to vet information through phone, video or email surveys with officials from 28 states and the District of Columbia.
“Ultimately, working on Environmental Justice State by State challenged me to develop the necessary skills needed to excel in my law school career: working collaboratively and partnering with various stakeholders, communicating effectively and delivering efficient results,” said Christine Paul, who worked on the project as a student with the Environmental Justice Clinic at Vermont Law and Graduate School.
The project was funded by Cancer Free Economy Network, GRACE Communications Foundation and The National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For more information on Environmental Justice State by State and to access the database, visit ejstatebystate.org.
About Vermont Law and Graduate School: Vermont Law and Graduate School, a private, independent institution, is home to a Law School that offers ABA-accredited residential and online hybrid JD programs and a Graduate School that offers master’s degrees and certificates in multiple disciplines, including programs offered by the School for the Environment, the Center for Justice Reform, and other graduate-level programs emphasizing the intersection of environmental justice, social justice and public policy. Both the Law and Graduate Schools strongly feature experiential clinical and field work learning. For more information, visit vermontlaw.edu, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.