The Limited Effects of Federal Environmental Justice Policy on State Enforcement

Publication Date:
Jan 2009
Published In:
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

The federal government adopted several measures during the mid-1990s to address concerns about race-based and class-based disparities in environmental protection. This article examines whether these measures affected the pattern of state enforcement of three federal pollution control laws. Using differences-in-differences models to estimate the effects of the federal policy adoption, I find evidence of increases in state enforcement of the Clean Air Act in large African-American communities, but declines in enforcement in communities with large poor and Hispanic populations. Similarly, there is evidence that state enforcement of the Clean Water Act decreased in poor and African-American communities, but there were no real changes in enforcement of facilities regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Collectively, the analysis suggests that the federal policy had minimal positive effects on state regulatory enforcement.


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