Panel: Environmental Justice: Empirical Evidence for Policy Innovation and Change
(Natural Resource, Energy, and Environmental Policy)

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Johnson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Heather Campbell, Claremont Graduate University
Discussants:  Azita Amiri, University of Alabama, Huntsville and Rachel Krause, University of Kansas

Environmental Justice in the Face of Existential Threats: Local Governments and Climate
Adam Eckerd, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Elise Whitaker, University of North Carolina, Charlotte and Susan Sterett, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Air Pollution: A Study of Excess Emissions in Texas
Zhengyan (Ian) Li1, David Konisky2 and Nikos Zirogiannis1, (1)Indiana University, (2)Georgetown University

A Green Classroom Environment? – Assessing Students and Communities’ Equitable Access to Green Schools
Shuang Zhao, University of Alabama, Huntsville, Shan Zhou, Michigan Technological University and Douglas Noonan, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

This panel presents a diverse set of empirical studies advancing the environmental justice (EJ) field and providing evidence to support EJ policy innovation and improvement.  Four paper topics proposed on this panel include: (1) how local governments and communities address EJ issues arising from climate change and sea-level rise, (2) excess emissions’ impact on minority communities, (3) children’s equal/unequal access to green schools, and (4) developing community-based environmental health assessment tools.  All papers probe new frontiers of EJ topics that have been understudied by conventional EJ literature.  The empirical evidence generated from these studies could inform actions to better account for EJ considerations that require going beyond the conventional EJ research.

The rich EJ literature has helped advance the discourse, raise awareness, and shift agency action (e.g., creating the Office of Environmental Justice).  Entering a new policymaking era that includes a broader participation of diverse stakeholders, EJ research needs to study new environmental topics, consider multilevel stakeholders and develop new evaluation tools. The first paper expands equity issues from community characteristics to unequal capacities of local governments to address climate change issues. The authors provide a comprehensive analysis by depicting interactions between minority communities and local governments in addressing rising sea level problems. The second paper also investigates an understudied area, the excess pollutions that occur during startups, shutdowns, or malfunctions of facilities.  Even though excess emission events are frequent in number and large in magnitude, this type of pollution has historically been under-regulated in the United States. Needless to say, there has been little research relating the risks of excess pollutions with minority communities. While the first two papers expand our understanding of new environmental challenges, the third paper focuses on a new topic of inequitable access to environmental amenities. In particular, this paper examines the spatial distribution of green schools and their relationship with school kids and their communities’ demographics. The last paper, proposed by an EPA physical scientist, advocates and develops a community-based environmental health assessment tool. While the EPA and its regional offices have been developing EJ screening tools, a community based evaluation tool that could help prioritize health and environmental risk issues impacting the community is still new and innovative. Through focused group studies, the author presents a systematic way to develop such tools.

These topics proposed by this panel reflect a new emerging trend in evidence-based policy research. This panel presents a strong interdisciplinary feature with panelists, a chair and a discussant from multiple disciplines including public management, public policy, economics, law, engineering and public health. The papers proposed reflect a broad collaboration not only from different disciplines but also from various ranks and types of researchers such as PhD candidates, junior faculty, senior faculty and practitioners. This team itself is a manifestation of a strong representation of diversity including minority and female researchers.  These empirical researchers offer strong evidence to inform efforts to reduce inequity in exposure to environmental risks and access to environmental benefits, which could further catalyze policy innovation and changes.