Center on Race and Social Problems

Are the Environmental Protections Agency’s Inspections of Polluting Factories Less Frequent in Neighborhoods Populated Largely by Racial Minorities?

Principal Investigator(s): 
January 1, 2008 to January 1, 2011

This statistical study examines the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inspections at factories in the US chemical manufacturing sector. Specifically, I explore whether inspections are less frequent at factories in neighborhoods populated largely by racial minorities, controlling for other non-racial factors that influence inspections. EPA factory inspections are mandated by the Clean Air Act. These inspections are the EPA’s primary tool to ensure that factories use pollution abatement measures and maintain minimal environmental standards. This study contributes to public policies that seek to rectify the environmental injustices in the US. Racial minorities, particularly African Americans and Hispanics, live closer to environmentally hazardous facilities and face greater exposure to environmental toxins (CRJ, 2007). Such exposure is damaging to physical and mental health, the effects of which impede educational and economic progress (Institute of Medicine, 1999). Environmental justice advocates have claimed that “environmental racism extends to the enforcement of environmental regulations” (Bullard, 1993).