The Environmental Justice Implications of Quantitative Risk Assessment
Robert R. Kuehn   |   1996 U. Ill. L. Rev.

The controversial use of quantitative risk assessment by federal environmental agencies has spawned considerable debate among environmentalists, industry, and politicians. Much of the debate centers around the environmental justice implications of risk assessment--that is, whether the use of quantitative risk assessment causes greater environmental impacts on people of color and low-income communities than on other population groups. In this article, Professor Robert R. Kuehn argues that quantitative risk assessment, as currently employed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, does violence to the concept of environmental justice because risk assessment disproportionately places the burden of pollution and environmental hazards on racial minorities and low-income groups. This is so, Professor Kuehn posits, because of inherent methodological flaws in the assessment process. Moreover, risk assessment unduly restricts certain groups from participating in the process in any meaningful way, thus calling into question the fairness of risk assessment. Professor Kuehn attempts to resolve this conflict between risk assessment and environmental justice by suggesting that several reforms be made to both the methodology and the process of risk assessment.

* Clinical Professor of Law, Tulane Law School, and Director, Tulane Environmental Law Clinic. B.A. 1974, Duke University; J.D. 1981, George Washington University; LL.M. 1983, Columbia University; M.Ph. 1995, Harvard University.