Jason Corburn and Lawrence SusskindSix-party, multi-issue negotiation among community representatives, elected leaders, environmental and health experts, and asphalt company regarding siting of an asphalt plant in a racially mixed neighborhood
The City of Madrona’s zoning board has approved construction of an asphalt plant in the largely minority-populated neighborhood of Pina. The plant will supply the asphalt necessary for major projects which are vital to stimulating Madrona’s stagnant economy. Opponents of the plant, mainly environmental groups, churches, and neighborhood organizations, believe the zoning process was unfair, particularly in light of the cumulative health risks that will fall primarily on the ‘minority community’. One long-time Pina resident and physician has suggested that there is a correlation between the high rates of lung and respiratory cancer evident in Pina residents and the already high level of air pollution in the neighborhood. Proponents of plant construction claim that all legal requirements regarding the siting and environmental impact assessment have been met. Six key stakeholders must meet to consider how to address this matter in a fair way and also how to deal with claims of racism in environmental decision making.
This game introduces the topic of Environmental Justice. ‘Environmental Racism’ involves the deliberate targeting of poor communities or communities of color in the siting of hazardous facilities. It aims to convey lessons in 4 areas.
Estimated Time Requirements:
Preparation and reading time – minimum of 30 mins
Negotiation – minimum of 60 mins
Debrief – minimum of 45 mins
Total: 135 mins
- Fairness and equity – Traditionally, poor and historically disenfranchised communities are more willing to demand less than their wealthier, politically-connected neighbors. Does fairness require forbidding any new facilities from being built and/or operating in poor or minority communities because they have housed a majority of such facilities in the past?
- Equity issues must be looked at from a community-wide, even regional perspective. For example, is it equitable to allow higher health risks in one community than in others? What if a community with higher health risks has also received disproportionate benefits in the past? Environmental justice asks whether it is inequitable to have one segment of the population, be it poor or minority, bear disproportionate health burdens.
- Process versus outcome – Establishing a transparent decision making process is a tenant of environmental justice. However, an improved process may not ensure a just outcome, especially if political power is concentrated.
- This exercise shows that even with a well structured process with adequate stakeholder representation, just outcomes are difficult to achieve. Outcomes that are normally deemed appropriate are multi-layered and complex i.e. they ensure local input into land use decisions, guarantees of public health, compensation (financial and/or physical), and environmental mitigation (clean-ups and/or stricter rules) and often some kind of economic stimulus.
- Long-term and cumulative impacts – Many environmental and health decisions are made under great uncertainty. We are forced to make decisions using ‘imperfect’ information or contest scientific findings. One of the essentials of environmental justice is that we should seek to protect populations traditionally bearing the heaviest burdens or greatest risks. This negotiation shows how issues of environmental justice can be addressed even if there is great uncertainty about long-term and cumulative impact.
- Stigma – Communities with historically “dirty” and unhealthy facilities can suffer a stigma as undesirable places to live and work. Urban areas typically develop such reputations and often become “dumping grounds” for noxious facilities. This game shows that a carefully constructed community improvement package can address many of these issues.
This exercise is available in the Environmental Justice Package, which is comprised of the Teacher’s Package, Beaumont Incinerator Exercise, and includes the article Risk and Justice, by Patrick Field, Lawrence Susskind, and Howard Raiffa.
General Information, including attachments regarding health risk assessment, environmental impact assessments and agenda
Confidential Instructions for:
- Dr. S. Burien (Health Expert)
- P. Reilly (asphalt company representative)
- S. Ramos (City Council President)
- K. Mercer (Mayor of Madrona)
- C. Jackson (leader of STAMP, a neighborhood opposition group)
- T. Tukwila (Director of Madrona’s Department of Environmental Protection)
- All of the above
- Teaching Notes
Environmental justice, facility siting, environmental dispute resolution, risk assessment, science-intensive policy disputes, joint fact finding, multi-party negotiation
Beaumont Incinerator Exercise
Siting an Asphalt Plant in the City of Madrona Attributes
- Time required:
- 1-2 hours
- Number of participants:
- Teams involved:
- Agent present:
- Neutral third party present:
- Teaching notes available:
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