Citropolis: A Classroom Exercise in Environmental Justice

Citropolis: A Classroom Exercise in Environmental Justice
[As adapted from classroom exercised written by Craig B. Barkacs1 and Linda L. Barkacs2
Environmental issues are literally matters of life and death, and involve consideration and analysis
of many perspectives: ethics, discrimination, government regulation of business, and
environmental justice – both in the U.S. and internationally. In this assignment, you will approach
a situation faced by many municipalities as they try to rebuild and reinvigorate local economies
following the nationwide shutdown.
1. Form groups of between 1-3 members.
2. You are required to select up to seven (and no less than 5) projects from a menu of “Prospective
Projects” listed on the City Map. The projects include those that are environmentally harmful
(cement factory, fracking location, landfill) to those that are more desirable (marina, performing
arts center, theatre district, upscale mall) to those that some may consider dangerous (private
prison, homeless shelter). Note that the map provides information on how the preceding projects
may (or may not) enhance revenue for the city of Citropolis.3 For example, the cement factory
generates property taxes and fracking generates oil and gas sales. The private prison would provide
a net savings by lowering incarceration costs. The performing arts center would generate both
ticket sales and foundation grants. You are encouraged to consider real-world issues presented by
the coronavirus pandemic.
3. After choosing between 5-7 projects, you must locate each project on the map of the city of
Citropolis. If you need additional information for a thorough analysis, simply state your
assumptions and go from there. Be sure to:
(a) Explain your rationale and overall planning for each of the selected projects, including
the short- and long-term challenges and benefits to the local area and the city of Citropolis, at large.
(b) Describe any changes in zoning that would be required to allow the chosen use in that
location. (e.g. locate a factory in an area that is zoned for commercial use would require a zoning
change.) Describe the impact on transportation.
1 Professor of Law, Ethics, and International Negotiation, University of San Diego, Olin Hall School of Business
Administration, 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, California ([email protected]). 2 Associate Professor of Business Law, University of San Diego, Olin Hall School of Business Administration, 5998
Alcala Park, San Diego, California 92101 ([email protected]). 3 The professor could amp up the exercise by actually assigning dollar values to each project.
(c) If your plan involves taking land via eminent domain, explain the basis and how the
property owners constitutional rights may be protected (recall principles of public use and just
(d) Reference the reading and video that have been assigned since the last graded term
paper assignment when possible.
(e) Note and discuss any remaining legal, ethical, zoning, environmental, etc. issues that
arise. If any of your choices result in inequity for a particular community, discuss what, if anything,
can be done to mitigate the inequities or keep the inequities from repeating themselves.
The map of Citropolis contains twelve separate land parcels (not drawn to scale), including seven
possible redevelopment sites. Also included is information on what is currently located on and/or
near each parcel – middle to low income housing, neighborhood in decline, waterfront homes, golf
course, affluent homes, waterfront hotels/convention center, waterfront restaurants, sewage
treatment plan, and more.
4. You will present you analysis in written form. Your paper should be no less than 7 pages.
You will also present a summary of your redevelopment plan as a PowerPoint or google
slides presentation (5 slides minimum, and must include the map indicating where you chose
to locate each project). You may need to convert it to PDF to upload it.
5. Part of this assignment is how you decide to approach it. You may be as creative (or
straightforward) as you want in preparing your PowerPoint/Slides presentation. Be sure to list each
Prospective Project and Prospective Redevelopment site and discuss items (a)-(e), above for each
Does this really happen? Yes, here is some perspective as you prepare to complete your
South Camden Citizens in Action v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection4
Although New Jersey is one of the wealthiest states in the U.S., Camden, New Jersey is one of the
poorest cities in the country.5 Over 91% of the residents of the South Camden Waterfront (a.k.a.
Waterfront South) neighborhood are minorities, and a majority of them are African Americans.6
4 South Camden Citizens in Action v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 274 F.3d 771 (3rd Cir.
5 EcoJustice: Environmental Racism, Camden, NJ, and the St. Lawrence Cement Plant, Retrieved from 6 Id.
Waterfront South contains two Superfund sites, several contaminated and abandoned industrial
sites, chemical companies, waste facilities, food processing companies, and a petroleum coke
transfer station.7 The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) granted
permits for a regional sewage treatment plant, trash-to-steam incinerator, and co-generation power
plant in the neighborhood.8 Even though Waterfront South is one of 23 neighborhoods in Camden,
it hosts 20% of the city’s contaminated sites and averages more than twice the number of facilities
with permits to emit air pollution than exist within a typical New Jersey zip code.9
In 1999, the St. Lawrence Cement Company leased 12 acres from the South Jersey Port
Corporation (a state agency) to erect a cement grinding plant.10 Operations were projected to
generate over 77,000 diesel truck trips and 100 tons of pollutants per year.11 The company hired
lobbyists and PR consults and was given a permit by the NJDEP to construct the $50 million
facility in Waterfront South.
The Lawsuit
South Camden Citizens in Action (SCCIA) filed a lawsuit in 2001 to prevent the cement plant
from opening.12 Unlike most environmental justice cases, SCCIA’s lawsuit did not include
environmental claims. The action was brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983 claiming that
the NJDEP discriminated against them by issuing an air permit to St. Lawrence Cement Company
to operate a facility that would have an adverse disparate racial impact upon them in violation of
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.13 After a challenge, the district court found that the
plaintiffs had stated a claim against NJDEP for failing to consider the potential adverse
discriminatory impact of permitting operation of the facility and therefore enjoined it’s operation
until NJDEP made such a determination. The case was then appealed to the 3rd Circuit to determine
whether, in light of recent Supreme Court precedent,14 plaintiffs could maintain the action under
section 1983 for disparate impact discrimination in violation of Title VI and its implementing
regulations. The court held that an administrative regulation cannot create an interest enforceable
under section 1983 unless the interest already is implicit in the statute authorizing the regulation.
Because Title VI only proscribes intentional discrimination, plaintiffs had no right enforceable
through a 1983 action under the EPA’s disparate impact discrimination regulations.15 The district
court’s injunctive relief order was reversed. The cement plant opened in 2002.
7 South Camden Citizens in Action. 8 Id.
9 Id.
10 EcoJustice, supra. 11 Id. 12 Id. 13 42 U.S.C. sections 2000d to 2000d-7. 14 Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2000). 15 South Camden Citizens in Action.
Camden – The Rest of the Story . . .
The cement plant only employs about 15 people, so it cannot even claim to have brought jobs to
the area, where the median income of residents in 2001 was $15,000.16 In a study commissioned
by the plaintiffs during the lawsuit, an expert (who was not challenged) revealed that in Camden
County: 1) The age-adjusted cancer rate for black females was higher than 90% of the rest of the
state; 2) The age-adjusted cancer rate for black males was higher than 70% of the rest of the state;
3) The rate of cancer was significantly higher for black males than for white males; The ageadjusted rate of death of black females in Camden County from asthma was over three times the
rate of death for white females from Camden County; and 5) The age-adjusted death rate of black
males in Camden County from asthma was over six times the rate of death for white males in
Camden County.17
The Camden case is but one prominent example of environmental injustice in the U.S. Other
examples, in both the U.S. and internationally, include:
1) Strip mining in Appalachia: While coal was mined for 100 years without destroying the
mountains, about 30 years ago coal companies began strip mining and leveling the
mountains. The process is much cheaper and quicker, however, mine employees
plummeted from almost a million to around 80,000. In addition the environmental damage
from removing the mountain top is horrific.18
2) Drinking water in Flint, Michigan: Flint is a city comprised of a majority of African
Americans, where four in ten people live in poverty. An unelected emergency mayor
decided to switch to the Flint River as the city’s drinking water source, leading to
complaints which were dismissed. The result was that the city’s residents were poisoned
by lead in the water.19
3) Fracking in Oklahoma: After fracking became prevalent in Oklahoma, the state saw the
number of earthquakes increase dramatically. Oil and gas companies engage in wastewater
injection as part of the extraction process. Before 2009, Oklahoma averaged one magnitude
16 EcoJustice, supra. 17 Id. 18 See John Grisham’s latest book, Gray Mountain, a fictionalized account of what is actually happening in
19 Michigan’s Woeful Track Record for Environmental Justice, Retrieved from
3.0 earthquake a year. In 2015, Oklahoma averaged 2.3 magnitude 3.0 or larger quakes a
4) Federal Prison on Mountaintop Removal Site: Once the mountaintops have been removed
for strip mining, the question becomes what to do with the removal site. In 2016, the Bureau
of Prisons (BOP) began proposing spending federal money to build a prison in the
Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky – the sixth in the Central Appalachian region.
There are concerns over the health of the future inmates, as well as the health of the
residents living in the area.21
5) International Environmental Injustice: Much of the world’s electronic waste is being
shipped to China for recycling. Workers, including women and children, use low-tech
methods to separate reusable electronic components from the circuit boards. This
dramatically affects the health of the workers, as well as the people who live in the cities
where the waste is being dumped.22 The inequitable distribution of environmental hazards
is occurring around the world, with environmental pollution shifting from industrialized to
developing countries.23
20 After New Regulations, Oklahoma’s Shakes Calm Down a Bit, Retrieved from,-Oklahoma’s-shakes-calm-down-abit. 21 Environmental Justice Activists Fight Plans for Federal Prison on Mountaintop-Removal Site, Retrieved from 22 Scientists Concerned About Environmental Impact of Recycling E-Waste, Retrieved from 23 CPR Perspective: International Environmental Justice and Climate Change, Retrieved from

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