Regulatory Culture and the Failure of Government Programs for Environmental Justice


ACLS Fellowship Program




Environmental problems disproportionately harm low-income communities, communities of color, and tribal communities. This project investigates how regulatory culture undermines environmental regulatory agencies’ efforts to reduce these environmental inequalities. It does so through a multi-sited, ethnographic investigation of environmental justice (EJ) programs at seven state and federal environmental regulatory agencies in the United States, which have failed to meet the core principles of the EJ movement that fought for these programs. Whereas other scholars explain these outcomes in terms of the agencies’ lack of financial resources and threats from elites hostile to regulatory restrictions on industry affairs, this project instead identifies how bureaucrats’ experiences, practices, and beliefs about race, justice, and expertise also contribute to these outcomes.