Federal Court Gives Green Light to Environmental Racism suit against PA DEP

For updates on the CRCQL lawsuit against the PA DEP, visit the following pages:

RE: CRCQL vs. PA DEP 12/31/97

On December 30, 1997 the 3rd Circuit Federal Court ruled in Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL) favor thereby allowing CRCQL to continue on with their lawsuit against the Department of Environmental Protection for discrimination under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL), Chester, PA 19013

In May 1996 CRCQL filed a complaint in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania accusing the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection of discrimination by concentrating waste facilities in this black community.

Our lawsuit is the first in the country to sue a state under violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The basis of the lawsuit is simple. When an entity recieves federal monies every year they sign a waiver that states their “practices or policies do not discriminate nor do they policies or practices cause a discriminatory effect.” DEP’s position is that they have a “race- neutral” permitting policy. Even thought to avoid discriminating against this minority community they (DEP) do not look at the racial composition of a community.

The suit was assigned to US District Court Judge Stewart Dazall to find the department guilty of racial discrimination in its permitting process. We requested that the court forced DEP to change its permit process to take into account the racial makeup of affected communities, we also asked that the DEP be enjoined from receiving federal dollars until it does so and that the permit for Soil Remediation Systems be rescinded.

Since the suit was filed in 1996 charging the State with environmental racism, after many legal manuvers Judge Dazall dismissed our suit saying that there was no intentional discrimination on the part of the DEP. We appealed his decision to the 3rd Circuit Court (a panel of three federal judges). In September 1997, oral arguments were presented by the attorney representing DEP and our co-counsel on the case Gil Carrasco yesterday we were informed that a decision had been reached.

The decision reached has already set precedent for the nation. A community group has the right to enforce the civil rights statute and more importantly they do not have to prove intentional discrimination was at play. which is extremely hard, (unless of course they have some former Texaco executives recording conversations).

As for CRCQL we have won the right to move forward with our case in the courts to show that the DEP is practicing environmental racism here in Chester. This has been a banner year of victories for our group and we thank everyone who has supported our cause for the past five years. We wish you a happy and powerful New Year!!!

Last modified: 31 December 1997