Failed Promises

From American and Comparative Environmental Policy

Failed Promises

Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice

Edited by David M. Konisky

A systematic evaluation of the implementation of the federal government's environmental justice policies.





A systematic evaluation of the implementation of the federal government's environmental justice policies.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. Congress passed a series of laws that were milestones in environmental protection, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. But by the 1990s, it was clear that environmental benefits were not evenly distributed and that poor and minority communities bore disproportionate environmental burdens. The Clinton administration put these concerns on the environmental policy agenda, most notably with a 1994 executive order that called on federal agencies to consider environmental justice issues whenever appropriate. This volume offers the first systematic, empirically based evaluation of the effectiveness of the federal government's environmental justice policies.

The contributors consider three overlapping aspects of environmental justice: distributive justice, or the equitable distribution of environmental burdens and benefits; procedural justice, or the fairness of the decision-making process itself; and corrective justice, or the fairness of punishment and compensation. Focusing on the central role of the Environmental Protection Agency, they discuss such topics as facility permitting, rulemaking, participatory processes, bias in enforcement, and the role of the courts in redressing environmental injustices. Taken together, the contributions suggest that—despite recent environmental justice initiatives from the Obama administration—the federal government has largely failed to deliver on its promises of environmental justice.

ContributorsDorothy M. Daley, Eileen Gauna, Elizabeth Gross, David M. Konisky, Douglas S. Noonan, Tony G. Reames, Christopher Reenock, Ronald J. Shadbegian, Paul Stretesky, Ann Wolverton


$53.00 X ISBN: 9780262028837 296 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 3 charts


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262527354 296 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 3 charts


David M. Konisky

David M. Konisky is Associate Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the coeditor of Failed Promises: Evaluating the Federal Government's Response to Environmental Justice (MIT Press).


  • This is a convincing and timely assessment of an important, but troubled, federal initiative. Twenty years after a landmark presidential executive order, environmental justice policy effectiveness remains disappointing. Success is possible only if both citizens and policymakers absorb the lessons in this sympathetic but tough-minded book.

    Christopher H. Foreman, Jr.

    Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution; author of The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice

  • What happens when you win? This important volume notes how environmental justice activism and scholarship put the issues of disproportionate exposures by race and income squarely on the federal agenda—and how that agenda was often fumbled in the face of legal issues, bureaucratic obstacles, political resistance, and even an inability to crisply define an environmental justice community. Offering a unique account of the evolution of federal environmental justice policy—and a first-rate analysis of different aspects of that policy, including in the realms of the economy, the courts, and public participation—this is an overdue and very welcome addition to the literature.

    Manuel Pastor

    Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity, and Director of Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, University of Southern California