L A Law

Social groups in California say new environmental strategies discriminate against minorities

Published: Sunday 31 August 1997

Environmental groups in California have challenged the idea of pollution trading strategies, which they say are an infringement of civil rights. Law suits have been filed in the federal district court and a complaint registered with the state air pollution prevention agencies that the emission trading initiatives selectively subject certain minority communities to disproportionately high levels of dangerous chemicals.

Under the system of pollution trading pioneered in southern California, companies that fail to reduce emissions can buy 'pollution credits' from companies that effectively control emissions. "What this allows for the first time is that companies that have the technical ability to go beyond the law in reducing their emissions actually have a reason to do so," said David Roe, senior attorney for the Environment Defense Fund. When the concept works, overall regional emissions are reduced dramatically, he added.

The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People and some environmental agencies, however, want the US Environmental Protection Agency to stop the existing pollution trading programme in Los Angeles. They say that the health of minority communities living close to the companies that do not have the ability to cut down emissions will be put at risk, as they can buy pollution credits instead of being forced to cut emissions.

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