Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shirley Sherrod Gives First Speech Since Controversy

As I mentioned in a previous post, former head of Georgia Rural Development for the USDA Shirley Sherrod spoke Saturday night in Gainesville, Georgia.  The occasion was a banquet celebrating the 60th Annivesary of the Newtown Florist Club, a Land Use Clinic client.  There was a good turn-out for Sherrod's first speech since her ouster and the attempted re-hire by the Secretary of Agriculture.  (Read the latest press re: the government e-mails about the controversy, recently obtained through a FOIA request.)

Sherrod's speech was deeply personal.  She described the unpunished murder of her father by a white farmer in the 1960s, and how that event made her devote her life to changing things in the South.  Her feelings about her father's murder, and the extensive discrimination suffered by black farmers in Southeast Georgia, at first lead her to hesitate in helping a white farmer (when she was running a non-profit agency, before her time at USDA).  In telling the story of how she overcame that hesitation to help the white farmer, she became open to the accusations of racism that lead to her ouster, even though she was trying to make the point that, for her, rural development is not about race but about poverty.

Sherrod says she shared that story about the farmer back in July to show others that if she could overcome her own personal demons, then so could others. The story was meant to be used as an example and encouragement for others to come together.

"We can't just work in isolated groups, (all races) need to work together to make the changes in the world that we need to make," Sherrod said.

"It's not about black people by themselves and it's not about white people by themselves. Let's all come together as a community."

I came away with the impression that she plans to write a book about her life, and she vowed at the end of her speech to continue to speak out about racism.  It will be remarkable to see where she goes next, in her already remarkable life.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 13, 2010 in Agriculture, Environmental Justice, Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

EJ Conference at FAMU

Thanks to John Bonine for the heads' up about this:

Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law and the FAMU Center for Environmental Equity and Justice invite you to attend "New Directions in Environmental Justice, An Environmental Law and Justice Symposium," Friday, November 12, 2010, 8:30 a.m. on the law school campus, 201 Beggs Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32801. The symposium will feature an overview of the latest international, national, state, regional and local developments in Environmental Justice. Continuing Legal Education credits (CLE) are available.


Opening Keynote:  Dr. Beverly Wright, Founder and Director of Deep South Center for Environmental Justice in New Orleans

Luncheon Keynote: Mr. Quentin Pair, Esq., U.S. Department of Justice

Closing Keynote: Prof. Maxine Burkett, University of Hawaii School of Law

The cost is $50.00 for the General Public; $35.00 for FAMU Alumni and Environmental Law Attorneys.  To learn more, visit Or, contact Professor Randall Abate, event coordinator, at, or at 407-254-4044.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 22, 2010 in Conferences, Environmental Justice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Shirley Sherrod to Speak at EJ Conference in Gainesville, Ga

By now probably most of you have heard the story of Shirley Sherrod, most recently of the USDA, forced to resign after a highly edited version of an old speech she gave to the NAACP made it seem as if she is unsympathetic to white farmers. (In fact, she was making the opposite point in her speech.)  While the agency has since offered to rehire her, she has decided to move on. (Bill O'Reilly even apologized to her for showing the edited clip on his show.)

She will be speaking October 9th in Gainesville, Georgia at a conference on environmental justice sponsored by the Newtown Florist Club. As I've blogged before, NFC is a client of our clinic and one of the oldest and most effective community organizations in Georgia.  The conference coincides with the Club's 60th anniversary, and I will also be speaking on a panel on October 8th regarding how EJ communities can work with lawyers.  Should be pretty interesting!  If you or someone you know might be interested in attending the conference, contact NFC.

Jamie Baker Roskie

September 15, 2010 in Agriculture, Conferences, Environmental Justice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Partners for Smart Growth - Call for Submissions

From Roberta Lane at EPA:

The Call for Session Proposals process for the 10th Annual New Partners
for Smart Growth Conference is open until June 30, 2010. To submit a
proposal, visit

I am very intrigued by the theme, which is "Equitable Development." From the submission form:

We strongly we encourage proposals that cover any of the thematic categories listed below, as all are extremely important to the conference program. That said, we are very interested in proposals that enhance our knowledge of and develop new approaches to address the following topics: (1) how to finance smart growth (for example: making the business case for smart growth, public-private partnerships, public infrastructure financing, and innovative private investment strategies), (2) capacity building for local governments and grassroots organizations implementing smart growth in their communities, and (3) equitable development and environmental justice.  Please note that while the list of categories includes “Equitable Development” as a theme, ALL sessions should explore equity and public health considerations.

Should be interesting, plus it's in nearby (for me) Charlotte, NC, next February.

Jamie Baker Roskie

May 19, 2010 in Conferences, Development, Environmental Justice, Federal Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Glick, Rose, & Huertas on the Greening of Community Economic Development In NYC

Brian Glick (Fordham Law), Jessica Rose (Community & Economic Development, Brooklyn Legal Svcs.), & Carmen Huertas (CUNY Law) have posted The Greening of Community Economic Development: Dispatches from New York City, Western New England Law Review, Vol. 31, No. 645 (2009).  The abstract: 

Community development corporations and other community-based organizations have recently begun to make major efforts to incorporate environmental elements into their projects. This article examines this healthy trend, and lawyers’ contributions to it, through the work of three groups in three diverse communities of color in New York City. It is based on the authors’ experience providing or directing transactional legal assistance to those groups as directors of law school community economic development clinics (Huertas-Noble at CUNY, Glick at Fordham) or of legal services community development units (Rose at Brooklyn Legal Services Corp. A).

Our clients are merging activism for economic development and environmental justice to create green-collar jobs for local residents, build affordable housing that is environmentally friendly, and use local land for sustainable projects that serve and improve the community. In the Cypress Hills section of East New York in Brooklyn, an established community development corporation works creatively to amass the financing required to make its buildings increasingly green. In West Harlem, a prominent environmental justice organization fights for community - serving sustainable land use and for programs to prepare people of color to get their fair share of jobs and contracts in the emerging green economy. In the South Bronx, a new organization forms worker-owned enterprises that train and employ local residents, protect the environment, and offer the potential for residents to accumulate a modicum of local wealth. Other articles in this symposium report a similar convergence of CED and environmental justice efforts in other parts of the country.

This is a promising trend. It offers real possibilities for low-income people of color to live healthier, safer, better lives. It moves forward their efforts to gain greater control over local land and resources. It supports their struggle to survive the deepening economic crisis and offers them the potential to influence and benefit from a more supportive new administration in Washington.

Our snapshots show lawyers, law students and law faculty, making small but important contributions. They help to design, maintain, and adapt legal entities and governance strictures, negotiate contracts and leases, navigate regulatory and subsidy systems, and advise and assist in project development, coordination, and financing. We are committed to doing more of this work and learning how to do it better. We hope you will join us.

Matt Festa

March 9, 2010 in Community Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Green Building, New York, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Ralston on Rights and Environmental Justice

Shane J. Ralston (Philosophy, Penn State-Hazelton) has posted Dewey and Leopold on the Limits of Environmental Justice.  The abstract:

Environmental justice refers to many things: a global activist movement, local groups that struggle to redress the inequitable distribution of environmental goods (and bads), especially as they affect minority communities, as well as a vast body of interdisciplinary scholarship documenting and motivating these movements. In the past three decades, scholarly debates over what environmental justice requires have been dominated by a discourse of rights. While this rights talk is unlikely to disappear, I argue for an alternative framing of environmental justice issues in terms of two ethics. These paired ethics are inspired by two American thinkers, one who was specifically concerned with ecological matters and the other less so, but equally devoted to elaborating the advantages of experimental problem-solving: Aldo Leopold and John Dewey, respectively. In A Sand County Almanac, Leopold articulated an ethic of restraint. Individuals bear personal responsibility for promoting beauty, stability and diversity in their relations with the land. Dewey proposed an ethic of control, whereby experimental inquiry permits communities to gain greater control over their natural environment and experimentally determine the content of their shared norms. In some respects, Dewey’s ethic of control resembles what Leopold calls the ‘outlook of a conqueror’, not that of a ‘citizen in a land community’. However, if we adopt even a weakly anthropocentric view of human-environment interaction, then exerting some degree of control over one’s natural environment becomes essential for survival and flourishing. Still, pragmatists concerned with environmental justice issues can learn important lessons from Leopold’s ethic of restraint, which extends not only to the land, but also to the oceans and the atmosphere. I demonstrate this point by appealing to the works of J. Baird Callicott and Larry Hickman, as well as to proposals to reduce the anthropogenic inputs (especially global greenhouses gases) responsible for global warming through the intentional manipulation of climate systems—often called ‘geoengineering’.

Matt Festa

March 9, 2010 in Environmental Justice, Property Theory, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sustainable Communities Initiative

From the Obama administration:

February 4, 2010

THURSDAY: Top Obama Administration Officials to Promote Sustainable
Communities, Environmental Justice at Smart Growth Conference

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun
Donovan and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will visit Seattle on
Thursday, February 4, to address the 9th Annual New Partners for Smart
Growth Conference. They will be joined by Environmental Protection Agency
Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus.

Speaking before an audience of more than 1,500 key planners, public health
professionals, developers, government staff and elected officials
Secretaries Donovan and LaHood and Assistant Administrator Stanislaus will
discuss the ways their agencies are working together through the Obama
Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities to improve access
to affordable housing, provide better transportation options, and protect
public health and the environment.

“EPA, HUD and DOT are working together to rebuild our foundations for
prosperity, a process that starts with rethinking the ways our communities
grow,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.  “The interagency Partnership
for Sustainable Communities is working to give our communities what they
need to grow and thrive with economic resilience and environmental

“I am proud to announce HUD’s brand new Office of Sustainable Housing and
Communities today,” said Donovan. “Working with our partners at DOT and EPA,
this new office will help us streamline our efforts to create stronger, more
sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local
innovation and building a clean energy economy.”

“Our Partnership really is a new way of doing business in Washington, to
help our nation meet 21st century challenges,” said LaHood. “Working
together, we’re creating jobs to revitalize our economy, while helping state
and local transportation agencies to build the capacity they need to promote
livable, walkable, sustainable communities.”

The President proposed $527 million in his budget for an ambitious new
livability initiative at the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Its Office
of Livable Communities will be a focal point for initiatives such
as expanding transit in low-income neighborhoods.  It will fund a grant
program to help state and local transportation agencies provide more
transportation choices that spur economic development.

The New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, taking place Feb. 4-6, is the
premier national smart growth conference, bringing together experts from a
wide range of disciplines to discuss transportation, housing and urban
development, public health, equitable development, environmental protection,
and other topics. The partnership agencies are working together more closely
than ever before to meet the president’s challenge to coordinate federal
policies, programs, and resources to help urban, suburban, and rural areas
build more sustainable communities.

The New Partners for Smart Growth Conference is managed by the Local
Government Commission, in partnership with EPA, DOT, and other public and
private sponsors.

More about the Partnership for Sustainable Communities:

More on EPA’s Smart Growth Program:

More information on HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities:

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 5, 2010 in Clean Energy, Climate, Community Design, Conferences, Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Federal Government, Housing, HUD, Planning, Politics, Race, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Sustainability, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Interdisciplinary Problem Solving in Newtown

As you all might have noticed from previous posts, our clients in Gainesville, Georgia are getting a fair amount of press lately.  The client is the Newtown Florist Club, an environmental justice organization working on industrial pollution issues in their neighborhood.  Two nights ago we had a community meeting to discuss the work of our interdisciplinary team on Newtown's problems.  The meeting got a nice write up in the local paper.  Presenters at the meeting included Kathi Wurzel, a toxicologist who's been collecting environmental data and assessing previous health studies for Newtown, Marshall Shepherd, a meteorologist and climatologist studying air quality in Newtown, Alfie Vick, an environmental design professor and landscape architecture whose students have been helping residents envision redevelopment in their neighborhood, and Nik Heynen, a geography professor and community organizer who is currently helping NFC with a community garden project. Rose Johnson-Mackey and Faye Bush of the Florist Club facilitated. The meeting was well attended - close to 60 folks came.  Many attendees seemed to appreciate hearing about the different types of work being done in Newtown. There was a bit of controversy at the end of the meeting, but everything remained civil.  You can't ask for more in a public meeting, I think.

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 3, 2010 in Environmental Justice, Georgia, Industrial Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Rhuks Temitope Ako (Unversity of Hull--School of Law) has posted Nigeria’s Land Use Act: An Anti-Thesis to Environmental Justice, forthcoming in the Journal of African Law, Vol. 53, No. 2, pp. 289-304, 2009.  The abstract:   

Nigeria’s Land Use Act, promulgated in 1978, is perhaps the most controversial legislation in the country. The Act, originally promulgated as a decree and annexed to the country’s constitution, was ostensibly made to nationalize landholding in the country. However, the peculiar impact of the Act on the inhabitants of the Niger Delta region that hosts upstream activities of the oil industry has led to assertions that the Act was made specifically to deprive those inhabitants of the right to participate actively in the oil industry. This article examines the impact of the Act on the right of inhabitants to access justice. It argues that the Act obstructs their rights to environmental justice and is a fundamental cause of the violent conflicts that pervade the region.

Matt Festa 

February 1, 2010 in Environmental Justice, Oil & Gas, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 29, 2010


Newsweek on-line has the article "An Unquiet Nation" The subtitle is "Audio ecologist Gordon Hempton talks about America's vanishing quiet spaces, and how our lives can be helped by listening to the silence."  Hempton has traveled the world looking for silent places, and he's finding fewer and fewer.  In 2007 there were only 3 places left with 15 minute intervals of silence, one of which is in Olympic National Park in Washington state.  The primary problem is air travel, which is not a land use problem per se.

However, many communities struggle with the issue of noise and the similar problem of light pollution.  (See a UGA Land Use Clinic guidebook on local regulation of light pollution here.)  My clients in the Newtown neighborhood of Gainesville, Georgia would probably find Hempton's search for absolute silence a bit precious.  They're just hoping for some relief from the constant background hum from the nearby grain mill and the intermittent crash of metal on the junkyard site that sometimes exceeds OSHA standards - meaning folks should be wearing earplugs in their yards to avoid hearing loss.  (See our environmental consultants' report here and give it a few moments to download.)

Still, noise pollution of all kinds is wearing on the nerves and potentially damaging to health (also as documented in the report linked above).  I'm not sure I've ever been in a place totally free of mechanical sound and, although I hadn't thought about it before I read this article, that thought does make me a bit sad.

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 29, 2010 in Environmental Justice, Environmentalism, Industrial Regulation, Nuisance | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UGA Conference on Human Rights and Climate Change

Here is a conference announcement from the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law and The Dean Rusk Center

“International Human Rights and Climate Change”

 February 12, 2010,

at the University of Georgia School of Law in Athens, Georgia.

 Thomas Pogge, of Yale University, will present the keynote address: “Poverty, Climate Change, and Overpopulation,” exploring the extent to which the struggles to deal with these three phenomena are in competition with one another and/or synergistic, using a human rights standard as a common metric of assessment.

The day long conference will take the form of a moderated round table discussion, with a lunchtime keynote address.

Topics: The United Nations’ Process of Linking Human Rights and Climate Change; Potential Human Rights Effects of Proposed Climate Change Regime; Litigation— including Citizen Suits, Judicial Review, and Access to Information; Human Rights and Environmental Regulation; Climate Change Refugees.

The conference is slated to offer 5.5 MCLE Credits, including 1 Trial Practice and 1 Professionalism Credit.  

 Participants include: Prof. Peter Appel, University of Georgia; Prof. Dan Bodansky, University of Georgia; Prof. John Bonine, University of Oregon; Prof. Rebecca Bratspies, City University of New York; Prof. Harlan Cohen, University of Georgia; Prof. John Knox, Wake Forest University; Prof. Svitlana Kravchenko, University of Oregon; Ms. Elizabeth O’Sullivan, US EPA Region 4; Prof. Naomi Roht-Arriaza, University of California, Hastings College of Law; and Prof. Dinah Shelton, George Washington University.

More information can be found at:  If you have any further questions, please contact: Blake McDaniel, Executive Conference Editor, at: or (229) 522-0790.

Jamie Baker Roskie 

January 13, 2010 in Conferences, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Article Series on Newtown

As I've previously posted, a Land Use Clinic client, Newtown Florist Club and the Newtown neighborhood, has been the subject of a three article series in the Gainesville TimesThe final article contains reaction from public officials to our proposals to amend the city's noise and air pollution ordinances.  We're trying to get the city to enforce some industrial performance standards to control the serious noise and dust caused by the neighboring scrapyard and other industry.  As you can from the article, it's a long and difficult struggle.  I encourage you to view the slide show, which shows the level of aesthetic nuisance the neighborhood endures.

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 22, 2009 in Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Georgia, Industrial Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

North Charleston Partnership Wins EPA’s National Environmental Justice Achievement Award

A news release from EPA:

During a ceremony today in Charleston, S.C., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the partnership between the Mitigation Agreement Commission and the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities in North Charleston is among five winners of national Environmental Justice Achievement Awards.

 "EPA is pleased to recognize this partnership for its exemplary work with the city of North Charleston and the South Carolina Ports Authority to foster environmental protection and economic revitalization in distressed neighborhoods," said EPA Acting Deputy Regional Administrator Beverly Banister. “Model efforts like this show how a collaborative, problem-solving approach can result in healthier and more livable communities.”

The awards recognize partnerships for their distinguished accomplishments in addressing environmental justice issues, emphasizing collaborative work in communities disproportionately exposed to environmental and human health risks. Winning applications were reviewed and selected based on the six criteria, including innovation, public involvement and demonstrated results, by an independent, non-EPA review panel.

The partnership between the Mitigation Agreement Commission and the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities created a $4.08 million community plan for the city of North Charleston that will fund community, neighborhood and economic development projects in seven of the city’s most economically distressed neighborhoods. The partnership encourages open and meaningful dialogue between the neighborhoods it represents and elected officials, public agencies, planners and private developers to determine how best to minimize environmental and community impacts associated with the construction and operation of a new port. As a result of the partnership’s work, the Charleston port expansion project is the first to include both community and environmental programming as part of the formal mitigation plan. The partnership represents 14 organizations, including:

     * Berkeley - Charleston – Dorchester Council of Governments
    * Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce
    * City of North Charleston
    * Clemson University Restoration Institute
    * Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture, Clemson University
    * Institute for Families in Society, University of South Carolina
    * Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance
    * Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities
    * North Charleston City Council, District 10
    * North Charleston Housing Authority
    * South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
    * South Carolina Department of Transportation
    * South Carolina Employment Commission
    * South Carolina State Ports Authority

The following partnerships also received awards:

    * Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning for outstanding leadership in community-based efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning in the City of Rochester, New York.
    * Fish Contamination Education Collaborative for outstanding efforts to reduce the consumption of contaminated fish by the local Vietnamese, Chinese, and angler populations near the Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site, Los Angeles, California.
    * ReGenesis Project for outstanding leadership and efforts to address environmental protection and community revitalization issues in the Arkwright community of Spartanburg, South Carolina.
    * The Clean Trucks Program for outstanding efforts to significantly reduce air pollution from big truck rigs around Long Beach and Los Angeles, California port facilities.

Information on the EJ Achievement Award Program, including more details about this year's recipients:

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 17, 2009 in Environmental Justice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Life in the shadow of industry"

Today our clients the Newtown Florist Club, and the Clinic, got some great coverage in the Gainesville (GA) Times.  This article, hopefully the first in a series, covers the impact of industry on the Newtown neighborhood, something I've discussed in a previous blog post and that one of my students also discussed in his guest post.  I'm very pleased with this coverage - this reporter, Ashley Fielding, has really gotten at the history and nuance of this complicated situation, which implicates zoning, public health, nuisance, race, class, community and economic development, and much more.  Who says newspaper reporting is a dead art?

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 7, 2009 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Georgia, Industrial Regulation, Local Government, Nuisance, Planning, Politics, Property, Race, Redevelopment, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

UGA Working in the Public Interest Conference/Panel on EJ

From the student organizing committee of UGA's annual WIPI conference.  Note below that there will be a panel on environmental justice issues.

The 5th Annual Working In The Public Interest Conference

Save the Date!  UGA Law’s Working in the Public Interest (“WIPI”) would like to invite you to attend the Fifth Annual "Working in the Public Interest: Advancing Social Justice" Conference on February 26-27, 2010.

The conference is not simply for those pursuing a career in public interest law.  Whether that is your intended career path, or you plan on working in the private sector or in a non-traditional legal job—we welcome you!  Not only is this a free opportunity for you to attend and participate in candid, progressive discussions of  human rights issues, this is also a perfect networking opportunity—to meet fellow attorneys, professionals, and law students.

This two day event features panels and roundtable discussions with speakers drawn from all parts of the country.  The conference will be held at the School of Law, and we will be offering CLE credits for attending attorneys.  We can also arrange free housing for student attendees who would like to stay with other students here in Athens.

WIPI 2010 Panels:

•Prison Reform:  Disentanglement from the Concrete Jungle
Issues Facing Former Inmates Struggling to Reintegrate into Society

•Environmental Justice: Not In My Backyard
The Disproportionate Impact of Pollution on Minority and Impoverished Communities

•Advocacy & Crossover Kids:  When a Child Never Had a Chance
The Pipeline Carrying Children From Foster Care to Juvenile Delinquency

•LGBT:  Don't Be a Hater!
When Hate Crimes Are Directed At Members of the LGBT Community

•Immigration:  The Selective Melting Pot
Balancing the Competing Interests of our Nation and our Immigrants

WIPI 2010 Lunch Roundtables:

•Public Interest versus Private Practice: Why it Doesn’t Have to Be a Choice

•Education Advocacy in Public Interest: Lessons to be Learned

•Media Representation of the Public Interest: Is Seeing Really Believing?

*Coming soon to our website: keynote speaker information, lunch roundtable information, panel information, panelist information, photos from past conferences, electronic registration, and more! Please visit

Registration is FREE for all students!  Registration (electronic) will open next month. If you have questions or concerns, please email us at:  You may also find us on Facebook at

If you’d like to receive posters/flyers to distribute, or would like to help us spread the word, please email us at

Please feel free to distribute this email and its contents to other students, professors, or practitioners who may be interested in attending the conference.  We look forward to seeing you there!

2009-2010 WIPI Executive Board

The UGA WIPI board always does a great job organizing this conference, and it's a good chance for public interest-minded students and practitioners to come together.  I hope you all will share this information with your students.

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 2, 2009 in Conferences, Environmental Justice | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Environmental Justice & Scrapyard Regulation

This is another in an occasional series of UGA Land Use Clinic student-authored posts.  Today's guest blogger is Ryan H. Dodd, former Army JAG lawyer and current LL.M. Candidate in Environmental Law.

      This semester I have been working with the UGA Land Use Clinic on a project involving environmental justice issues being faced by the citizens of the Newtown Community in Gainesville, Georgia.  This case is illustrative of the many dimensions that are involved in environmental justice issues and has become an extremely effective model for students and practitioners in coming to a better understanding of the interplay of those dimensions.  The interdisciplinary approach involves individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds including planning and zoning, geography, community organizing, environmental design, and general environmental sciences.  Ultimately, the success of the Clinic’s involvement with the issues affecting Newtown will come down to a balancing of the many interests involved and capitalizing on the collective strengths of the actors working together.
    By way of background, the Newtown Community has been actively fighting these environmental justice issues for decades now.  Because of the community’s location in the midst of the city’s industrial zone, many of the battles fought have been between the community and neighboring industrial businesses.  Currently, the focus of attention has fallen on a neighboring scrap yard and the nuisance it is creating via fugitive dust and noise from its scrap processing operations.  With regard to many of the other types of heavy industrial businesses near Newtown, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has been able to step in and regulate.  This has been because these businesses are required to carry permits that are enforceable by EPD.  Unfortunately, scrap recycling is one of those businesses, as I have found, that does not have any stringent regulation or permitting process.  Therefore, the EPD has taken a hands-off approach, leaving it up to the local government to regulate. 
    Specifically, my involvement in this process has centered on the issue of code enforcement.  I have looked at how similar issues have been handled throughout the nation.  Not only is Georgia failing to regulate scrap yards, but so are most states.  The exceptions are Florida, New Hampshire, and Indiana, which have enacted programs known as “Green Yards” and “Clean Yards” respectively that create an incentive-based system to get scrap yard owners to voluntarily comply with environmental laws and regulations.  This is a potential model that we are looking at proposing in Georgia.
    Another issue that I have been researching is the utilization of existing code enforcement for dealing with nuisances, particularly fugitive dust and noise.  In the cases of Gainesville, these issues are enforced by the public works department.  However, other municipalities use their health departments for enforcement of these issues and it appears that these are working quite effectively.  This is because, in most cases, a health department has the knowledge base and tools to deal with nuisance issues.  It will be interesting to see how receptive local governments will be to taking some new approaches to code enforcement.  Many may continue to wrestle with budgetary constraints or personnel shortages.  However, if a municipality is to truly deliver the best services it can to its citizens, then it is incumbent upon them to embrace new frameworks in order to competently address some of these old problems.

One thing that continually amazes me is how many communities in Georgia struggle with unregulated scrapyards creating nuisances and hazards. While these are outliers in an industry that generally provides a needed community service, it's enough of a problem that the clinic has taken this up as a project theme over many semesters.  Let's hope that Georgia is willing to adopt a "Green Yards" or similar approach as a step in the right direction.

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 24, 2009 in Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Georgia, Industrial Regulation, Local Government, Nuisance | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Atlanta is America's Most Toxic City

My colleague Helen Kang, director of the Environmental Justice Clinic at Golden Gate University, just sent me a link to this article on proclaiming Atlanta the nation's most toxic city. But, look out Matt Festa, Houston's hot on Atlanta's heels at number three on the list. Take heart, though, Matt.  Houston's air is so polluted that it's become a world hot spot for air pollution research.  It's always good to be cutting edge! 

The article lauds New York as less toxic due to its excellent public transportation system (and related density) and Portland as a model of land use planning.  This lends even more support to the premise of Professor Nolon's article, which I blogged about earlier today.

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 5, 2009 in Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Georgia, Houston, Industrial Regulation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Presenting at the National Community Land Trust Network

As I posted earlier this week, the National Community Land Trust Network is having their annual conference here in Athens.  Four UGA busloads of folks came over from the Atlanta airport Tuesday and Wednesday and they're all now safely ensconced at The Foundry Park Inn  (part of which is, indeed, a rehabilitated foundry and a very cool historic structure).

This morning three of my colleagues and I gave a panel presentation on the land use issues faced by the Newtown Florist Club and Newtown Land Trust in Gainesville, Georgia.  Newtown deserves a post (or several) of its own, but I'll save that for another day.  Suffice it to say that Newtown Florist Club is a prominent environmental justice and civil rights organization in Georgia, and they have been the clinic's client for the last two years.  We have been working with them on an interdisciplinary approach to solving environmental and land use problems in the Newtown neighborhood.  Newtown served as a case study this morning for how community land trusts can engage with outside partners to address land use issues.  Rose Johnson-Mackey of the Florist Club board spoke of the history of the neighborhood and how this predominantly African-American neighborhood became surrounded by industry.  I spoke about the Clinic's efforts [give this data-rich link a couple of minutes to download] to convince the City of Gainesville to, among other things, enforce existing ordinances and improve industrial zoning regulations.  Alfie Vick from UGA's College of Environment & Design spoke about how his landscape architecture students are using their community design skills to help the neighborhood create a vision for a better future, and plan a community garden.  Dudley Hartle from the US Forest Service's Southern Center for Urban Forestry Research spoke about how concepts of green infrastructure can be applied in an urban neighborhood situation like Newtown.

We had some great dialogue with the participants about environmental justice, community organizing, rural planning, and how land trusts can play a role in creating sustainability.  I think some interesting partnerships and data sharing will come out of today's interactions.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 29, 2009 in Community Design, Conferences, Environmental Justice, Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 16, 2009

9th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference

From the good folks at EPA:

Conference registration is now open for the 9th Annual New Partners for
Smart Growth Conference, which will be held on February 4-6, 2010 in
Seattle, Washington.

The multi-disciplinary program will feature cutting-edge policies and
programs, projects, as well as strategies and implementation tools that
address the challenges of implementing smart growth development. Session
topics include climate change, equitable development, environmental
justice, public health, transportation, infrastructure, green jobs and
the economy, rural town planning, financing smart growth development,
open space preservation, retrofitting suburbs, affordable housing,
schools, critical water issues, green building, and much, much more.
Several sessions will be approved for AICP continuing education credits.

The conference agenda also includes special workshops, including a
one-day workshop on February 3, 2010 entitled "Working Together for
Equitable Development: Voices and Lessons from Environmental Justice and
Smart Growth."

Visit for detailed information on the conference
program, tours of model projects, special workshops, invited speakers,
hotel information, and to REGISTER NOW!

I'm fascinated about the track on EJ and Smart Growth - it's an encouraging sign!



October 16, 2009 in Environmental Justice, Smart Growth | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Environmental Justice & Land Use

Tomorrow in the Land Use Clinic seminar we'll be talking about environmental justice.  The Clinic got involved in environmental justice issues about two years ago, at the request of our colleagues at the Atlanta public interest law firm GreenLaw.  GreenLaw has been involved in environmental justice issues for many years now - environmental justice being defined by the EPA as "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, culture, education, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies."  GreenLaw asked for the Clinic's help in working for environmental justice in the drafting and application of local land use law in Georgia communities.

According to Clifford Rechtschaffen and Eileen Gauna, authors of Environmental Justice: Law, Policy & Regulation, the disproportionate siting of environmental hazards in minority neighborhoods has its origin in land use and zoning practices over the last century.  Some of the decisions were based on deliberate racism - e.g., restrictive racial covenants and racially discriminatory zoning.  Urban Renewal played a role in displacing thousands of black residents from residential neighborhoods.

Also, according to Yale Rabin, in the early part of the last century many jurisdictions engaged in what he calls "expulsive zoning," by zoning areas predominantly occupied mainly by blacks for industrial or commercial uses, thus displacing the residential uses in these zones.  Robert Bullard refers to this strategy as "PIBBY" or "place-in-blacks'-backyards."

Other scholars, including Robin Saha and Paul Mohai, have pointed to economic factors in disproportionate siting and zoning of industrial uses in minority neighorhoods, including low property values in these areas and the reduced likelihood of community opposition (since better educated, more affluent communities are better able to wage opposition campaigns).

Rechtschaffen and Gauna also implicate "structural racism," which encompasses more than explicit racism, classism or political factors:

A broader view of discrimination encompasses actions that are not intentionally racist, but because of the structure or workings of social and political institutions, have discriminatory effects.  For example, an all white zoning board may render decisions with discriminatory effects because of unconscious racial prejudices, or because minority citizens, who do not live in the same neighborhoods and are not part of the same social networks as the board members, have less access to them...seemingly technical criteria - such as that a facility should not be sited in proximity to schools, hospitals, or other sensitive institutions - can discriminate against minority residents who because of past and present housing discrimination disproportionately live in areas without such facilities.

Whatever the varied causes, research by John A. Hird and Michael Reese and others demonstrates that, regardless of class or income, pollution is distributed in a way that disproportionately affects people of color (although some subsequent research refutes these findings).

It's a complicated issue. I'll talk about solutions to these problems that we are trying to implement with our clients in subsequent posts.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 8, 2009 in Environmental Justice, Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)