Strengthening Environmental Justice Law
- Tseming Yang, of Santa Clara University’s School of Law, is writing the next chapters in environmental justice scholarship and law.
Yang is one of six experts invited by the Environmental Law Institute to contribute to a debate entitled “Advancing Racial Justice Means Advancing Environmental Justice,” to be published in the November/December 2020 issue of The Environmental Forum.
In his contribution, Yang argues for providing environmental justice communities with rights to participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Civil Rights Act Title VI enforcement program, including in claims investigation and internal appeals. Title VI prohibits recipients of federal funding from engaging in discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. However, it has long been an under-utilized lever for change in environmental justice.
Yang explains that recognizing community organizations and individuals’ right to participate in this potentially powerful regulatory process could be an important first step toward “incorporation of a rights-based perspective into our environmental law system, one that recognizes that individuals and communities have a right to a clean and healthy environment not subject to discretionary decisions of the government.”
Yang also co-edited the recent book, Comparative and Global Environmental Law and Policy, with his colleagues Anastasia Telesetsky, Lin Harmon-Walker, and Robert V. Percival. Published by Wolters Kluwer, the volume covers an important and rapidly changing area of law, introducing law students to emerging legal principles and policies, and showing how they are applied to specific contexts and issues, so that readers can grasp “how law-on-the-books becomes law-in-action.”
The book focuses on environmental justice in a chapter on human rights and the environment, and in sections on law and Indigenous peoples.
Professor Yang previously served as an attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and, in the Obama administration, as Deputy General Counsel of the US Environmental Protection Agency. He served on the Board of Trustees of Earthjustice from 2013 to 2019, the nation’s largest public interest environmental law firm, and blogs at CitizenYang.com.
Photo: Wolters Kluwer