Environmental Justice

Drawing: Ricardo Levins Morales, scratchboard, ink, and watercolor.

All Americans have the right to live in healthy communities, yet neighborhoods home to people of color and working class residents are disproportionately subject to serious pollution and environmentally destructive activities.

Environmental justice is an important intersection between the fight for civil rights and environmental protection. It seeks to ensure marginalized communities do not become repositories for unhealthy activity that harms both the environment and public health. Despite much progress, polluters still regularly seek out poorer neighborhoods and communities of color to site their operations, well aware that such communities may not have the necessary political and economic power to prevent polluters from setting up shop.

The goal of environmental justice is to ensure that marginalized communities have the organization and resources they need to combat threats to their health and local environmental quality. State law requires developers and polluters to perform community outreach when siting operations in an environmental justice community and to engage municipalities in conversation. Yet there is little legal protection for marginalized communities beyond that. Robust legal challenges are therefore often a necessary complement to grassroots community organizing to prevent specific projects from discriminating by exposing citizens to unhealthy levels of pollution on the basis of their race, religion, or economic status.

Issues of environmental justice are a national problem, and our region is no exception. With much of its wealth concentrated in suburban communities, Connecticut’s less prosperous urban and rural neighborhoods are routinely faced with pollution and public health threats. For decades, Save the Sound has successfully fought off the intrusion of polluters into marginalized communities.

We stopped the proposed oil burning power plant called English Station that would have measurably increased asthma hospitalizations in the Fair Haven neighborhood of New Haven, and required PSEG to reduce emissions from another New Haven oil burning power plant. We also led the legal arm of a Bridgeport-based coalition that has successfully pushed for the planned closure of the last coal plant in Connecticut by 2021. Our legal team continues to partner with a local grassroots group to halt the construction of a natural gas fired power plant in Killingly, a low-income and rural environmental justice community in northeastern Connecticut already suffering from elevated asthma rates and poor air quality.

And we work to ensure equitable access to Long Island Sound and our region’s shared natural resources. The Soundkeeper and our water quality team hunt down pollution hot-spots that close public beaches and contaminate seafood. Our restoration team recently completed a multi-year project to rebuild marshland at Sunken Meadow State Park, one of the most-visited parks on Long Island and a summer haven for generations of low-income New York City residents.

Explore our current legal actions on air and climate, land use, and water.

Check our legal victories over the years here.

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