Environmental Justice and the Transition From Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy

April 2023
ELR 10317
Barry E. Hill

This Article explores the environmental justice, climate justice, and sustainable development implications of the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act, which encourages domestically produced and processed minerals for the country’s energy transition from fossil fuels. It examines (1) the resulting need for a resurgence of mining in Indian Country; (2) the use of those minerals in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles; and (3) how disposal of those batteries could have disproportionate impacts on people of color and/or low-income communities in the United States, as well as marginalized communities in less affluent countries across the globe. It contrasts this federal framework with New York’s new environmental rights constitutional amendment, as well as the state’s environmental justice law and climate change law. It concludes that New York’s framework provides guardrails while the federal government currently offers few or no banisters for disproportionately affected redlined communities.

Barry E. Hill is a Visiting Scholar at the Environmental Law Institute and Adjunct Professor at Vermont Law School. He served as Director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Justice from 1998-2007 and is author of Environmental Justice: Legal Theory and Practice (ELI Press 5th ed. 2022).