Economists share $360,000 NSF grant for Environmental Justice research

Michael Ash & James Boyce

University of Massachusetts Amherst economists James K. Boyce and Michael Ash have received a grant of $360,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study Environmental Justice (EJ) in the United States, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California.

“Environmental Justice” looks at unequal access to a clean environment by race and class. President Clinton’s 1994 Executive Order 12898 made EJ a federal priority.

The UMass Amherst team is part of a three-university consortium for research on EJ. Boyce and Ash co-direct the Corporate Toxics Information Project of the Political Economy Research Institute at UMass Amherst.

The other two lead researchers are Paul Mohai of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, a pioneer of EJ research and the lead investigator for the project; and Manuel Pastor, Jr., who heads the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California (and holds a 1984 Ph.D. in Economics from UMass Amherst).

Boyce, Ash, and their collaborators will use a unique dataset from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators’ project (RSEI) to examine the social, economic, and geographic structure of exposure to industrial toxic releases in the United States.

According to Boyce, “The RSEI data give an extraordinary window into both who is on the receiving end of toxic industrial pollution and who is on the sending end. No other data permit this type of analysis. Our research will be useful to environmental justice scholars, community activists, and socially responsible managers and investors.”

Ash, who is also appointed in the Center for Public Policy and Administration, notes, “This research can improve understanding of the dynamics of environmental inequality, with broader impacts in public policy, community health, and corporate environmental performance.”

Boyce and Ash’s Corporate Toxics Information Project (CTIP) publishes the Toxic 100. CTIP emphasizes the use of right-to-know information to improve environmental performance. As Boyce describes it, “Our aim is to move from the ‘right to know’ to the ‘right to clean air and water.’”

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