Over the past fifteen years, legal academia has produced a sizeable body of scholarship on the widely acknowledged problem of environmental injustice. Although there have been positive responses in the policy arena, no similar level of concern is evident in the courts. Most legal claims directly addressing environmental injustice fail, recent developments in civil rights case law are discouraging, and current constructions of environmental laws are proving theoretically inadequate to protect communities already subjected to disproportionate toxic exposure or threatened by new pollution. This Comment explores the state of the law of environmental justice and offers an analysis of why the courts have proven so inhospitable to environmental justice claimants. In approaching this question, I begin with two basic premises: that the documented pattern of disproportionate environmental burden on low-income and minority communities in the United States is manifestly unjust, and that the meager protection our legal system has provided these communities to date is deeply troubling.

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