Environmental Risk: Considering the Distribution of EPA Violations Across Geo-Political Boundaries

Timothy O. Ireland, Niagara University
John P. Hoffmann, Brigham Young University
Craig J. Rivera, Niagara University

Recently, a body of research has developed that focuses on environmental justice. Environmental justice refers to a concern with the unequal risk of exposure to hazardous material across geo-political boundaries. Some research indicates that siting of hazard waste treatment, storage, or disposal facilities (TSDFs) may be driven, in part, by the racial composition, social class, or level of political organization of the area. The same may be true for exposure to hazardous materials from Toxin Release Inventory (TRI) facilities. Although the issue of environmental crime continues to receive attention among criminologists, much of this research does not utilize the environmental justice framework for examining exposure to hazardous waste. Instead the focus tends to be on defining environmental crime, exploring enforcement complexities, and considering links between hazardous waste disposal and organized crime. In this paper we combine concerns raised in environmental justice research with regulatory, civil, or criminal actions for violation of federal statutes. Using data from the EPA Integrated Data for Enforcement Analysis (IDEA) database and U.S. census data, we examine whether violations of environmental statutes across a region of urban areas in upstate New York vary in any predictable way by social class and racial composition of the areas.

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Updated 05/20/2006