Corporate Environmental Crime and Environmental Justice

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Greife, Matthew ; Stretesky, Paul ; O'Conner Shelley, Tara ; Pogrebin, Mark (2015)

Executive Order 12898 (42 U.S.C. § 4321 [2000]) mandates that federal agencies in the United States make it their purpose to achieve environmental justice. As a result, agencies often rely on empirical studies to provide crucial information that can be used to implement policies to combat inequality. While numerous studies now examine the distribution of environmental burdens and benefits, there are no systematic empirical studies that examine inequality in criminal penalties. This study corrects that omission by presenting findings on the relationship between community demographics and monetary penalties (fines) against corporations for 121 criminal violations of federal environmental law that were adjudicated between the years 2005 and 2010. Our results suggest that fines are not correlated with the demographics of residents living near the crime. That is, corporations that committed their environmental crimes in minority and poor areas did not receive lower fines as a result. Thus, environmental justice concerns appear to be satisfied with respect to federal criminal prosecutions.
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