Flint is latest example of environmental injustice and pollution inequality in the U.S.

Cornell Professors Arturs Kalnins and Glen W.S. Dowell have produced a study [http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-015-2836-5] showing how pollution inequality in the U.S. has gotten progressively worse since the new millennium. They explain (below) how the environmental crisis in Flint, Michigan is an egregious example of what they found in their study.

Both experts are available for interviews on campus, by telephone, in our ISDN studio or in our television studio.

Arturs Kalnins is an associate professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. His primary research areas of focus are hospitality, franchising, business ethics and small business strategy with an emphasis on geographical issues.

Glen W.S. Dowell is associate professor of management and organizations for Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, where he teaches Sustainable Global Enterprise. His primary research area is corporate environmental performance, and the relationship of firms to their natural, institutional, and competitive environments. He is a faculty affiliate for the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise.

Dowell and Kalnins say:
“Flint is a particularly egregious example of what we believe is going on nationwide: poor areas do not appear to be able to effectively organize and influence political and corporate decision-making in their locales to make their environment cleaner and healthier. Thus they are consistently subjected to more pollution.

“Many people are aware that this kind of ‘environmental injustice’ exists, but in our study we document how much worse the pollution inequality has gotten since the new millennium.

“While corporate toxic pollution has decreased by 31 percent in the United States overall in the first 13 years of the new millennium relative to the 13 years before the millennium – and this decrease has received much attention in the press – the decrease has primarily been enjoyed by residents of wealthy areas.

“In the 13 years before the new millennium, the wealthiest population-weighted quartile of US counties faced corporate toxic pollution emissions of 30 percent of the emissions in the poorest quartile of counties. In the 13 years after the new millennium, the wealthiest counties enjoyed corporate toxic pollution emissions of only 12 percent of the emissions in the poorest quartile of counties.

“At least, we found that racial composition did not make the inequality even worse. Poor areas such as Flint suffer disproportionately, but poor mostly-white areas fare no better in terms of the corporate pollution at least in our study.”

Other findings from the study include:

  • The wealthiest counties enjoyed a post-millennium reduction in corporate pollution emissions of 67 percent while the poorest counties enjoyed only an 18 percent reduction.
  • Plants operating continuously from 1987-2012 reduced their emissions by 62 percent in the wealthiest counties but only 46 percent in the poorest counties.
  • Plants exiting the poorest counties between 1987 and 2012 were replaced by new plants almost as dirty – 109K pounds pollution vs. 112K pounds pollution annually per plant.
  • Plants exiting the wealthiest counties between 1987 and 2012 were replaced by new plants that were much cleaner – 17K pounds pollution vs. 53K pound pollution annually per plant.
  • In 23 of 25 states studied individually – those with the most total corporate pollution – the post-millennium pollution reduction is greater in the wealthier half of counties than in the poorer half.

For interviews contact:
Kathleen Corcoran
Office: 202-434-8036
Cell: 607-882-3782
Kmc327@cornell.edu

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.

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