Addressing Community Concerns: How Environmental Justice Relates to Land Use Planning and Zoning

July 2003 - This report is the third in a series of studies on environmental justice conducted by the Academy for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ). It builds on the Academy’s two prior studies, Environmental Justice in EPA Permitting: Reducing Pollution in High-Risk Communities (December 2001) and Models for Change: Efforts by Four States to Address Environmental Justice (June 2002).

This study examines the land use planning and zoning laws, policies, and practices of local governments in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Louisiana to determine how they may relate to environmental justice issues.

This third study was designed to help the public understand how land use planning and zoning relate to environmental justice, both in terms of resolving current issues and preventing future problems. It also highlights opportunities for engaging the public in the local planning and zoning decisions that affect their communities.

Key Findings

All levels of government should conduct thorough examinations of their respective legal and regulatory authorities—including common law authorities for protecting the general welfare of citizens—to develop creative solutions for environmental justice problems.

Federal, state, and local levels of government should work in concert to ensure that their actions for responding to environmental justice issues are compatible and mutually reinforcing. They should share information, coordinate programs, and develop comprehensive rules that will ensure consideration and mitigation of localized environmental and public health impacts, especially in low-income and minority communities.