Environmental Justice

The environmental justice movement recognizes that environmental burdens—including polluted air and water, lack of outdoor access, and poor land use planning—disproportionately affect certain populations, including people of color and low-income communities. SMW represents community groups, non-profit organizations, and government agencies working to reverse these statistics. Examples of the firm’s environmental justice work include the following:

Reprinted with written permission by
Signal Tribune Newspaper
Protestors at a SCIG Project Hearing
  • Vernon Battery Recycling Facility: SMW successfully defended the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s efforts to regulate airborne arsenic in a challenge by a lead acid battery recycling facility in Vernon, CA. The facility’s emissions had resulted in adverse health impacts for nearby residents, who are predominantly low-income and Latino. Following the firm’s victory in Los Angeles Superior Court, the facility shut down.
  • Environmental Justice Coalition for Water: The firm represents the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water in its work to support implementation of a state low-income water rate assistance program. The program will seek to make affordable water available to all Californians, in accordance with California’s human right to water legislation.
  • Southern California International Gateway: The City of Long Beach hired SMW to represent it in a CEQA challenge to the Southern California International Gateway project, a massive railyard project that would disproportionately impact low-income communities in the City. The firm persuaded the trial court that the environmental impact report repeatedly failed to adequately study or address the project’s air quality, greenhouse gas, noise, and traffic impacts.
  • Fracking and Oil & Gas Production: SMW has worked with numerous community groups throughout the state, including in San Benito County, Kern County, and the City of Los Angeles, to address the harmful effects of fracking and oil and gas production. Such facilities are often concentrated in low-income communities of color that already face some of the worst air quality in the nation.
  • Low-Income Renewable Energy Access: On behalf of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), SMW has worked to promote access to renewable energy for all customers, including low- and moderate-income customers and those living in disadvantaged communities. As part of this work, SMW helped to develop and write IREC’s Shared Renewable Energy for Low- to Moderate-Income Consumers: Policy Guidelines and Model Provisions. SMW has also worked extensively on the development of and advocacy for IREC’s “CleanCARE” proposal at the California Public Utilities Commission, which allows low-income customers to benefit from renewable energy at no additional cost.