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Examining Environmental Justice in Facility-Level Regulatory Enforcement


  • *Direct correspondence to David Konisky, Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs, 105 Middlebush Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, 〈〉. Konisky will provide all data and coding information upon request. The supplementary online appendix can be found on Konisky's personal website at 〈〉. This research was supported by grants from the Russell Sage Foundation and the University of Missouri. The authors thank Heather Campbell, Jason Grissom, Douglas Noonan, Craig Thomas, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. All remaining errors are their own.


Objective. This article examines claims made by environmental justice advocates that government inequitably enforces environmental laws.

Methods. We test for race- and class-based disparities in the regulatory enforcement of the U.S. Clean Water Act from 2000–2005. We estimate pooled logistic regression models, and the analysis is conducted at the facility-level using an areal apportionment methodology to measure the composition of populations living near facilities.

Results. We find evidence of modest race- and class-based disparities in both government inspections and punitive actions taken in response to noncompliant behavior, although the pattern of these disparities depends on model specification.

Conclusions. Our findings provide some evidence of disparities in government enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act, lending support to the general claims made by environmental justice advocates.