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Challenges 2018, 9(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/challe9010009

Delivering Environmental Justice through Environmental Impact Assessment in the United States: The Challenge of Public Participation

Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Health and Social Services Building, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003-8001, USA
Received: 31 October 2017 / Revised: 18 February 2018 / Accepted: 22 February 2018 / Published: 28 February 2018
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Abstract

The United States (US) occupies the frontline of events in modern history of environmental reform. The federal government through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970 has not only established an environmental policy template for other nations to emulate, but has also produced a viable tool for regulating environmental quality (EQ) and delivering environmental justice (EJ)—Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). However, environmental history provides evidence that political process and special interests govern the attainment of the EJ goal by way of inadequate adherence to the NEPA provisions. Public participation (PP) is a principal requirement for achieving EJ and constitutes a pivotal determinant of EIA outcome. Effective delivery of EJ through EIA does require complete compliance with NEPA stipulations. Furthermore, the responsible agency’s resources in terms of both funding and commitment in allowing for the full representation of the opinions of residents within communities of concern (CoC) for environmental decision-making process are critically important. Public health research approach offers valuable tools towards achieving EJ goals. To approach this topic, first I provide a historical background on EIA and EJ from the standpoint of the NEPA. Second, I discuss the meaning and impediments of PP. Third, I examine two scenarios viz the Triassic Park Hazardous Waste Dump in Roswell, and the public hearing of the recent “controversial” oil and gas ordinance in Sandoval County, both in New Mexico. Finally, in the discussion part, I attempt to evaluate PP in both cases and suggest that none of the criteria seem to have been met in either case. I conclude that the Home State Rule designation of New Mexico State in terms of control over oil and gas activities places it at an advantage in benefitting from a fair PP. View Full-Text
Keywords: communities of concern; environmental health; environmental impact assessment; environmental justice; environmental policy; National Environmental Policy Act; public participation communities of concern; environmental health; environmental impact assessment; environmental justice; environmental policy; National Environmental Policy Act; public participation
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Yakubu, O.H. Delivering Environmental Justice through Environmental Impact Assessment in the United States: The Challenge of Public Participation. Challenges 2018, 9, 9.

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