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1440 15th Street, Boulder, CO 80309

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Title: From the Inside Out: The Fight for Environmental Justice within Government Agencies

Abstract: In this presentation, Harrison will present key findings from her book, From the Inside Out: The Fight for Environmental Justice within Government Agencies, which lifts the veil on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental regulatory agencies to offer new insights into why they fail to reduce harmful toxics and other hazards in our nation’s most environmentally overburdened and vulnerable communities. It examines the disappointing pace of environmental regulatory agencies’ “environmental justice” (EJ) programs and policies as a case through which to understand why, despite reducing air and water pollution for the nation overall, government has not protected the communities who suffer the most. Other scholars have shown that budget cuts, industry pressure, and other factors outside the control of agency staff constrain the possibilities for EJ reforms to regulatory practice. This book shows that agencies’ EJ efforts are also undermined by elements of regulatory workplace culture, including colorblindness. Through extensive interviews with and observations of staff at numerous environmental regulatory agencies across the United States, Harrison show that agencies’ EJ efforts are undermined by everyday ways in which well-meaning staff dedicated to environmental regulation reject EJ reforms as violating what they think their organization does and should do. A rare glimpse inside environmental regulatory agencies, these findings help explain the shortcomings of environmental regulation and policy implementation today. It also shows how agencies’ EJ staff – those tasked with developing EJ reforms – endeavor to change both regulatory practice and regulatory culture from the inside out.

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*Light lunch served at 11:45, please RSVP.


Bio: Jill Lindsey Harrison is Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on  environmental justice, environmental politics, and immigration politics, with a regional emphasis on the United States. Her research covers political conflict over agricultural pesticide poisonings in California, escalations in immigration enforcement in rural Wisconsin, and government agencies’ environmental justice reform efforts, with the threads throughout being an aim to help identify and  explain the persistence of environmental and workplace inequalities in the United States today, as well as to identify ways powerful institutions can be reformed to help redress those problems. Dr. Harrison has published two books, Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice (MIT Press, 2011) and From the  Inside Out: The Fight for Environmental Justice within Government Agencies (MIT Press, 2019), as well as numerous articles. She is a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and is director of CU Boulder’s Graduate Certificate in Environmental Justice.

  • Tracy Casault

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