History and Achievements


ACE was launched in 1993 by Charlie Lord and Bill Shutkin, two lawyers with a passion for social justice and environmental protection. Incorporated in 1994, ACE has pioneered an organic and powerful bottom-up model for environmental organizing and advocacy. Our early work supported community leadership on environmental justice issues and provided legal resources for community partners.

Today, ACE is becoming an organization composed of and led by the constituents we serve. ACE is anchored in our home neighborhood of Roxbury, and from these strong roots, organizes residents and builds coalitions to win significant concrete victories in Greater Boston and Massachusetts. Our Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project has become a model for nurturing youth leadership in the environmental justice movement. ACE also mobilizes legal and scientific resources in support of organizing strategies. Our approach serves as a model for communities throughout the nation and for the broadening environmental movement.

Since 1994, we have partnered with more than 40 neighborhood groups representing over 3,500 people throughout Greater Boston, Lowell, Lawrence, and New Bedford. We actively build coalitions and serve as a primary resource for the growing movement for environmental justice in Greater Boston and throughout New England. We have helped groups address persistent problems such as trash transfer stations, vacant lots, and dirty diesel exhaust. Our work has also prevented additional environmental insults such as asphalt plants and freeway offramps. But solving immediate environmental threats is not enough. Thus, many of our initiatives have grown from individual neighborhoods seeking relief from specific hazards to proactive system-wide efforts, such as converting the public bus fleet from diesel to cleaner alternative fuels, cleaning up and redeveloping "brownfields", and promoting a resident vision of sustainable communities.

Major Achievements

Some of our major achievements include:

  • ACE helped members of the Chelsea community successfully oppose a diesel power plant in their community. In November 2007, Chelsea Energy, LLC withdrew its plans to construct a diesel-burning power plant next to the only elementary school complex in the city because of strong, organized community resistance on behalf of Chelsea residents and Chelsea Green Space. The 250 megawatt plant would have emitted significant amounts of diesel exhaust and particulate matter, posing a health risk to the community and especially those children attending school next door.
  • ACE and its partners push Massachusetts to enact its first Environmental Justice Policy. After more than 2 years of pressure from ACE and its partners, Secretary Of Environment Robert Durand passed an Environmental Justice Policy in October 2002. This policy reorients all of the state's environmental agencies to increase outreach, involvement, and resources to environmental justice communities and provides for heightened scrutiny in environmental impact reviews.
  • ACE and its partners win 100 clean fuel buses in regional transportation plan. In March 2002, ACE and its more than 50 coalition partners in On the Move coalition partners publicly launched a Transportation Justice and Livable Communities agenda and forced the regional transportation planning body to add a $40 million project for 100 additional clean fuel buses in its 25-year plan.
  • ACE youth force cleanup of "mountain" of asbestos and lead-laden dirt in Roxbury. In late 2001, ACE's youth interns undertook a campaign to clean up a lot that contained a 10-foot high mound of uncovered dirt that was laden with asbestos and lead. The youth worked with residents of the neighboring housing development and state environmental officials to force the responsible party, a construction firm, to remove the contaminated dirt at a cost of &frac;12 million dollars.
  • ACE and its community partners successfully organize for new regulations solid-waste related facilities. In December 1999, the Boston Public Health Commission approved strict regulations on dumpster storage lots, junkyards, and recycling facilities. Neighborhood groups have worked for years to residents from health code violations, rodent infestations, and hazardous waste releases from these facilities.
  • ACE helps get air monitoring station in Dudley Square. ACE and its partners successfully persuaded the MA Department of Environmental Protection to install a comprehensive air monitoring station in the Dudley Square area. After years of raising awareness of high asthma rates and the dangers of diesel bus and truck exhaust, residents will now have a new tool in their fight for environmental justice. ACE's youth interns are helping to build 24-hour access to the data from this monitoring site through a telephone hotline and website.
  • ACE helps defeat asphalt plant. Working with the Coalition Against the Asphalt Plant, a coalition of residents from Roxbury, Dorchester, South Boston, and South End, ACE helped defeat a proposed asphalt plant, which would have contributed more pollution to an area already afflicted with poor public health.


ACE staff and programs have received awards from the US EPA, City of Boston, American Bar Association, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Association for Continuing Legal Education, Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, Parents Magazine, Community Change, Inc., The Chelsea Collaborative, Community Labor United, and Health Care for All.