Environmental Justice Cases and Matters

Date Filed: 02/16/2018

Using litigation and advocacy, LDF has fought over its 76-year history for the right of Black Americans to have access to clean air, water, land, public transportation, and other human necessities. For example, LDF has litigated several environmental justice cases, including: Clean Air Alternative Coalition v. U.S. Dept. of TransportationMothers of East Los Angeles v. California Transportation CommissionThomas v. City of Macon; Matthews v. Coye; Labor/Community Strategy Center v. Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and Holt v. Scovill.

In Clean Air, LDF reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which provided residents of West Oakland, California with improved landscaping, mechanisms to reduce noise and air pollution, and enhanced employment opportunities. In Mothers and Thomas, LDF challenged measures to build highways through predominantly Black neighborhoods. In Matthews v. Coye, involving the failure of the state of California to conduct federally mandated testing for lead for some 557,000 poor children who receive Medicaid, LDF reached a historic agreement that triggered similar lawsuits and actions in several other states that had failed to adhere to lead-screening mandates. In Labor/Community Strategy Center, LDF and others challenged the inequitable funding and operation of bus transportation used primarily by low-income residents and people of color in Los Angeles, securing bus pass concessions from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (LAMTA) and forcing the LAMTA to spend $89 million on 278 new, clean compressed natural gas buses.

In 2007, LDF filed a complaint in Holt, on behalf of 11 members of an African-American family living in Dickson County, Tennessee. The lawsuit was filed against government officials and several private companies for the contamination of the family’s well water with cancer-causing toxins that had leaked from an adjacent landfill into the water supply at levels nearly 30 times the standard allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). LDF secured more than $2 million for the Holt family through settlement with each defendant.

With respect to non-litigation advocacy, LDF has: (1) urged the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights in response to its notice of proposed rulemaking to expand, rather than narrow, its Title VI of the Civil Rights Act enforcement authority; and (2) advocated in Detroit and Flint Michigan, as well as Tallassee, Alabama, for environmental justice and against environmental racism. In Detroit and Flint, Black and other residents have been denied one of life’s most basic necessities: clean water. In Tallassee, Black descendants of former slaves have endured land loss and reduced quality of life because of the placing of a landfill in their historic community.