Does environmental regulation vary over poor and minority communities? An uneven governmental response may follow from regulators' varying incentives to negotiate enforcement challenges. We argue that regulators confront two in particular. Regulators can pursue political enforcement, responding to mobilized interests, regardless of environmental risk, or they can pursue instrumental enforcement, responding to at‐risk communities, regardless of political mobilization. To examine these competing strategies, we use an original dataset from the EPA's Risk‐Screening Environmental Indicators model to develop a geographic “riskscape” combined with census tract community data and facility‐level enforcement data. We find that state regulatory agencies pursue a mixture of political and instrumental enforcement, but that these tactics are applied unevenly across traditional environmental justice communities. Specifically, state agencies devote more attention to facilities in communities with relatively higher risk, but less attention in the area of punishment for violations for facilities located in Hispanic communities. Importantly, this lack of attention to Hispanic communities is not mediated by the relative level of risks that they face, but it is to a significant extent in communities in which environmental justice advocacy organizations operate.
Policy Studies Journal – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
Keywords: ; ; ;
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