1996 U. Ill. L. Rev. 103 (1996)
The Environmental Justice Implications of Quantitative Risk Assessment

handle is hein.journals/unilllr1996 and id is 113 raw text is: THE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
IMPLICATIONS OF QUANTITATIVE
RISK ASSESSMENT
Robert R. Kuehn*
The controversial use of quantitative risk assessment by
federal environmental agencies has spawned considerable de-
bate among environmentalists, industry, and politicians. One
unresolved issue is 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 con-
cept of environmental justice because risk assessment dispro-
portionately places the burden of pollution and environmental
hazards on racial minorities and low-income groups. This is
so, Professor Kuehn posits, because of 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 sug-
gesting that several reforms be made to both the process and
use of risk assessment.
I. INTRODUCTION
Ready or not, risk assessment is about to take the leading role in
environmental decision making. After a little more than a decade of
risk assessment's use, life and death decisions about public health and
the environment will depend on, and must await, the results of a deci-
sion tool characterized by one of its chief proponents as having the
reliability of a tortured spy.'
* 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.P.H. 1995, Harvard University.
1. See William D. Ruckelshaus, Risk in a Free Society, 14 Envtl. L. Rep. (Envtl. L. Inst.)
10,190, 10,190 (May 1984) (We should remember that risk assessment data can be like a cap-
tured spy: if you torture it long enough, it will tell you anything you want to know.).

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