CPR Archive for Christine Klein

Unnatural Disasters and Environmental Injustice

by Christine Klein | April 07, 2016

Originally published on OUPblog by CPR Member Scholars Christine A. Klein and Sandra B. Zellmer.

The recent tragedy involving toxic, lead-laced tap water in Flint, Michigan highlights the growing gulf between rich and poor, and majority and minority communities. In an ill-fated measure to save costs for the struggling city of Flint, officials stopped using Detroit's water supply system and switched to the Flint River. Although residents complained about the water's foul taste, odor, and color, officials assured them that the water was safe to drink. Later, it became clear that the polluted, corrosive river water leached lead from the city's water pipes, so that the water coming out of the residents' taps contained high levels of lead – a powerful neurotoxin for which there is no safe level of exposure. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning, which causes severe learning disabilities and irreversible neurological damage.

Although many factors undoubtedly contributed to the tragedy, critics quickly drew a connection between the mismanagement of Flint's water supply and the fact that a majority of Flint's population is black and about 40% live below the poverty line. Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore, a native son of Flint, characterized the catastrophe as the Governor's "economic and racial experiment," arguing that "the water crisis in Flint never would have been visited upon the residents of Bloomfield Hills or Grosse Pointe" – two affluent areas of metro Detroit.

Regrettably, the Flint crisis is not a ...

Missouri River Floodplain Owners Seeking a “Double-Take” from the Taxpayers

by Christine Klein | April 21, 2014
Landowners flooded by the Missouri River in 2011 have sued the Corps of Engineers for a Fifth Amendment “taking” under the U.S. Constitution.  Their attorneys hope to rake in over $250 million in claims for their clients and at least $1 million in expenses and fees for themselves.  They’re likely to be disappointed. Lawsuits seeking recovery of flood damages from the federal government almost always fail.  First, the United States is immune from suit for negligent construction or handling of ...

The Lesson of Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann: Water Conservation, not Water Commerce

by Christine Klein | June 19, 2013
It’s been more than 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court declared that water is an article of commerce and that Nebraska’s attempts to prevent the export of “its” groundwater to neighboring Colorado violated the dormant Commerce Clause.[1] The high Court did not return directly to the issue until last week’s ruling in Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann.[2] [3] This time, a unanimous Court ruled againt the would-be exporter--Texas--and its effort to diver a portion of the Kiamichi River ...

Reversing the Environmental Deficit

by Christine Klein | October 21, 2009
As the recession grinds on, financial news continues to grab front-page headlines. The national deficit is a central flashpoint for controversy, triggering debate on the appropriate balance between spending today and increasing our children’s growing mountain of debt. In the midst of this battle, it is easy to overlook another looming problem: the growth of the environmental deficit. Overall, we are spending down the planet’s “natural capital” at unsustainable rates. As the nation’s most thoughtful minds address our economic woes, ...

Coveting Their Neighbor's Water: the Importance of Hood v. City of Memphis

by Christine Klein | September 24, 2009
The interstate water wars have gone underground. For more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has been the arbiter of last resort to settle fights between states over the right to use surface streams that cross state lines. But now, the high Court may be asked to settle a long-standing feud between Mississippi and Tennessee over a vast underground formation—the Memphis Sand aquifer, which underlies about 10,000 square miles of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky. The stakes are high, ...

Also from Christine Klein

Christine A. Klein is the Chesterfield Smith Professor and Director, LL.M. Program in Environmental & Land Use Law at the University of Florida, Levin College of Law, Gainesville.

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