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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy produces a high quality biannual journal on cutting-edge environmental legal and policy matters.  JELP is entirely run and produced by students at UCLA School of Law.  Articles in JELP are written by leading scholars throughout the country and often the world, and by students focusing on environmental law at UCLA.

Volume 39, Issue 2, 2021


Time to Wake Up! Pushing the Boundaries in the Americas to Protect the Most Vulnerable

It is time to wake up and push for the protection of the environment and against climate change. Vulnerable communities around the world are living in polluted, highly toxic, and unsustainable environments. It is time to protect them through a human rights-based framework. This article proposes that the Inter-American right to a healthy environment provides the possibility of protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable in the Americas by providing a rights-based framework for them to vindicate their environmental human rights. This article focuses on vulnerable populations who have been historically marginalized and discriminated against and/or who are reliant on the natural resources in their environments. This article posits that the "greening" of human rights, which is the traditional approach to the protection of environmental human rights, is not sufficient to protect vulnerable non-indigenous populations without protection. It is for this reason that we, as a society, must think creatively about environmental human rights advocacy, and create a system that moves forward the development of the right to a healthy environment. We must hold States responsible for their actions and for their support of corporations who exploit natural resources and populations living in them. If we know that so much human suffering is already happening due to environmental harm and climate change, why are we continuing on this path?

Human Rights and Wrongs: The Dark Canon of the United States Supreme Court in Environmental Law

This is the second in a series of critiques of the Supreme Court's jurisprudence on environmental law. The first series described three cases notable for their manipulation of facts and law and ill-concealed bias against environmental plaintiffs. One crippled the National Environmental Policy Act, the second crippled citizen standing to sue, and the third pivoted to undermine the safety of nuclear power plants.

The instant trio of cases add yet another troubling element to the canon. What distinguishes them, beyond the usual sleight-of-hand, is their failure to demonstrate the slightest understanding or concern for the plight of some of the most disadvantaged people on the planet. All of them brown.

The first case discussed, Northwest Indian Cemetery, denied First Amendment protection from the destruction of an entire Native American culture. The second case, Sandoval, effectively destroyed Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Act. The third case, Kiobel, slipped the bounds of decency altogether by declaring corporations immune from actions under the Alien Tort Claims Act, expressly designed to provide damages for acts viewed by the entire world as beyond the pale.

Student Comments

CEQA Tribal Cultural Resource Protection: Gaps in the Law and Implementation

Assembly Bill No. 52 (AB 52) amended the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 2014 to mandate early tribal consultation prior to and during CeQA review, and it positions California Native American tribes as the experts on cultural resources within their own geographical areas. AB 52 affords tribal governments a seat at the decisionmaking table alongside public agencies and California local governments. The law also provides greater legal protection and demands more stringent consultation requirements than other historic and cultural resource protection statutes. However, despite formal advancement in tribal resource protection and recognition of tribal expertise, implementation of AB 52 is flawed. The purpose of this paper is to identify problems with the legislative language of AB 52 and gaps in its implementation to provide a point of reflection on how to improve government to government consultation.

Establishing a Climate-Conscious Bill of Rights for California's Homeless

California's growing unhoused population, alongside the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change, necessitates action by California's state and local governments to protect unhoused communities from the current and anticipated impacts of climate change. Despite the public discourse surrounding both climate change and homelessness in California, policy-makers have frequently treated the two as separate and unrelated issues. failing to acknowledge how catch issue interacts with the other.

This failure has allowed unhoused persons' unique vulnerability to water insecurity, heat-related illness, and the spread of disease to remain divorced from policy discussions on how California must adapt to a new and harsher climate. In addition, sea level rise and wildfires will further contribute to California's housing shortage and overall unhoused population. The collective failure of California's state and local decision-makers to address this intersectionhas led to a patchwork of laws and regulations that do not adequately confront existing or future climate burdens on unhoused persons in California. This Comment recommends that the state of California pass a climate-conscious Homeless Bill of Rights, a statutory mandate on California's municipalities to adopt specific climate adaptation strategies designed to protect unhoused persons in California. The muddled and incomplete protections contemplated by current approaches suggest that a climate-conscious Homeless Bill of Rights may provide a more complete and proactive approach to ameliorating climate burdens for unhoused Californians.

Equitable Adaptation to Extreme Heat Impacts of Climate Change

Climate change has, and will continue to have, a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Already, it is clear that systemic racism has led to increased temperatures in predominantly Black neighborhoods as compared to white neighborhoods in the same cities. A legacy of discriminatory housing policies in California is correlated with worse air quality and health disparities, both of which could be further exacerbated as temperatures rise. As cities and states begin developing climate change adaptation plans, it is imperative that they develop equity-based solutions that take into account how discriminatory practices are leading to disproportionate climate impacts. If such impacts are not accounted for, they will be exacerbated in the future. This paper analyzes equity-based climate adaptation strategies for heat, which is already the deadliest weather-related disaster in the U.S., and how they could be applied to Los Angeles.