This Note seeks to paint a picture of what working toward environmental justice should look like. Focusing on the demands that environmental justice communities voiced through the Principles of Environmental Justice, it posits that three key components are necessary to comprehensively achieve environmental justice: distributive justice, recognitional justice, and procedural justice. Common understandings of environmental justice often miss either one or both of the latter two components. This Note puts a name on work that simultaneously addresses all three: comprehensive environmental justice work. By developing a common understanding of comprehensive environmental justice, this Note aims to ensure that those who care about achieving environmental justice understand the need to address each component. For environmental justice supporters and partners who are eager to contribute to the movement in the most efficient and effective way, a common understanding of comprehensive environmental justice work can aid in identifying which organizations deserve their resources. For lawyers who aim to aid the movement, a common understanding will contextualize their role in the movement and the components they are addressing.
Part I recounts the events leading up to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit and adoption of the Principles of Environmental Justice. Part II traces the government’s attempts to implement environmental justice. Part III evaluates the role of the lawyer in actualizing this understanding of comprehensive environmental justice. Part IV assesses an Earthjustice-led coalition’s role in alleviating blood-lead-level disparities in environmental justice communities in a recent Ninth Circuit case. Part V briefs policy implications of a fragmented understanding of environmental justice. Finally, by identifying good practices that large organizations are currently employing, I conclude with some guideposts for empowering rather than usurping the communities who founded the environmental justice movement.