William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review


Part I of this Article sets forth the history and animating principles of the environmental justice movement in the United States during the 1970s, which developed as an adjunct to the larger civil rights movement. Part II then turns to the role of documents and data in exposing where toxins present a risk to public health and where documentation habitually falls short. It discusses how freedom of information laws can unlock access to the documents and data that quantify environmental hazards but also how those laws fail to produce reliable results because of the influence of regulated industries. Part III examines how journalists and advocates use data to call public attention to dangerous environmental conditions and provoke change—and how, at times, they must build their own databases to make up for government regulators’ failings. Part IV concludes by underscoring the symbiotic relationship between two movements—environmental justice and open government—that evolved along parallel timelines with complementary goals. Because effective environmental advocacy depends on requiring regulators to gather and report trustworthy information, the authors conclude, government transparency should be recognized as a necessary prerequisite to the success of environmental justice advocacy.

This abstract has been taken from the authors' introduction.