Our services

Environmental Justice Legal Services

The EJLS program anchors ACE’s organizational and coalition work with a robust legal framework

EJAN: Environmental
Justice Assistance
Network

EJAN provides legal and technical support to low-income residents and communities of color who are suffering from environmental injustices such as polluted air, unsafe water, and more.

Toxic Tours

Learn about the history of environmental justice and the development without displacement campaign in our neighborhood

Environmental Justice
Legal Services

The EJLS program anchors ACE’s organizational and coalition work with a robust legal framework grounded in federal and state civil rights and environmental laws. Our staff attorney collaborates with non-EJLS staff and members to ensure that legal arguments and campaigns are grounded both in the law and in the lived experiences of staff and community members. Our work on DERO, both historically and in the present day, proves how powerful our organizing and theory of change can be. 

EJLS and other ACE staff actively participate in legislative and regulatory advocacy locally and statewide on environmental justice, transit, housing issues and other related policy matters.

For more information about EJLS

Please contact Sofia at (617) 442-3343

  • Making Environmental Justice a Legislative Priority: ACE is co-leading efforts to pass legislation to better protect EJ communities, people of color, and low income residents of Massachusetts. Current EJ bills would define environmental justice populations in Massachusetts and provide designated communities with greater access to the state regulatory processes that are meant to protect them against excessive pollution and degradation. These bills are currently in the Committee on Ways & Means.
  • Bolstering Residents’ Rights to Address Discrimination in State Court: Our Staff Attorney spoke at a briefing in January in support of civil rights legislation that would allow individuals and groups to sue in state court under a disparate impacts theory of discrimination. This type of case used to be a tool commonly used by environmental justice communities, but a bad Supreme Court decision in 2001 has made it all but impossible for claims to be brought on the federal level. Unfortunately, the bills were sent to study but we are gearing up to support them in the next legislative session. 
  • Making Fair Housing a Reality in Boston: ACE continues to be a member of the Community Advisory Committee for the Assessment of Fair Housing and is working to hold the Mayor and the City of Boston accountable for the lack of fair housing in Roxbury and throughout the city.

Learn more

Ejls victories

Marty Walsh signs DERO!
Mayor Marty Walsh signed into law An Ordinance to Protect Air Quality throughout the City Of Boston by Reducing Fuel Emissions, the final version of our Diesel Emissions Reduction Ordinance (DERO) that will reduce harmful pollution caused by diesel vehicles and idling. A collaborative effort between ACE, Clean Water Action, and the City of Boston, the ordinance will help to reduce disparities in public health outcomes and environmental degradation in Roxbury and other communities of color in the city of Boston.
Executive Order on Environmental Justice signed!
For five years, our Massachusetts Environmental Justice Alliance organized to pass an Executive Order on Environmental Justice in the state. On November 25, 2014, Governor Deval Patrick signed it into law. See our factsheet [pdf] for more information on how this Executive Order makes all of our lives greener, healthier and safer.
Residents successfully block ethanol transports through neighborhoods
Residents of Chelsea, East Boston, and Revere, supported by ACE lawyers, convinced Global Partners' to withdraw their proposal to transport dangerous amounts of ethanol by train through densely populated neighborhoods.
Increased access to energy efficiency for thousands of renters and families
The Green Justice Coalition, supported by ACE lawyers, participated in the Department of Public Utilities review of the state utilities’ 2013-2015 energy efficiency plans and obtained a decision acknowledging for the first time that there are barriers for renters, limited English language speakers, and working class residents in accessing energy efficiency services. The Department required the utilities to overcome these barriers and work with the Green Justice Coalition to find solutions. This victory will help thousands of renters and moderate income families lower their utility bills, live in more comfortable housing, and have funds to cover the costs of basic needs.
Residents win protections for municipal drinking water
Brockton and West Bridgewater residents, represented by ACE lawyers, scored a major victory when the Energy Facilities Siting Board ruled that the company proposing a power plant in Brockton could not use municipal drinking water to run its cooling towers. The company also withdrew its proposal to use diesel fuel for the plant.
Chelmsford advocates defeat plan to increase storage tanks
Opposition from Chelmsford Advocates for a Safe Environment defeated a plan to increase the size of asphalt and oil storage tanks in the town.
Chelsea residents, represented by ACE lawyers, defeated a proposal to build a diesel-fired power
Chelsea residents, represented by ACE lawyers, defeated a proposal to build a diesel-fired power plant in their city across the street from the city's elementary school. Community members of the Chelsea Green Space and Recreation Committee, represented by ACE lawyers, achieved a first in Massachusetts when the Administrative Magistrate allowed them to participate in a DEP Penalty Case against Eastern Minerals.
Dorchester residents win zoning appeal
The United Neighborhood Association in Dorchester, successfully challenged the Zoning Board of Appeals on an occupancy permit that had been issued to an auto repair garage that was not zoned for their residential neighborhood.
Representatives of the Mystic River Watershed Collaborative, represented by ACE lawyers, win one million dollars in criminal case
Representatives of the Mystic River Watershed Collaborative, represented by ACE lawyers, successfully got one million dollars, to be paid in a criminal case, designated to the Massachusetts Environmental Trust to be used to improve water quality in the Mystic River Watershed.
June 3, 2015
November 25, 2014
Environmental Justice Assistance Network (EJAN)

EJAN provides legal and technical support to low-income residents and communities of color who are suffering from environmental injustices such as polluted air, unsafe water, and more.

Are you eligible for support through EJAN?

We help those who:

  1. Live in a low income community and/or community of color
  2. Are experiencing a significant environmental problem affecting their environment, health, safety, culture, or quality of life
  3. Are a group of residents who are willing to work together and be assisted and/or represented by an attorney or other professional
The purpose of the Environmental Justice Assistance Network (EJAN) is:
  • To respond to the legal and scientific needs of communities on the front line of environmental hazards- linking experts in law, policy, science, community organizing, and other relevant fields with community, faith, and municipal leaders in environmental justice communities; and
  • To build the capacity of historically underrepresented groups to hold decision-makers accountable and meaningfully participate in decisions affecting their health, safety, environment, culture and quality of life.

We do this by matching people in need of pro-bono assistance with people willing to provide the information, expertise, and skills necessary to inform and win campaigns for environmental justice and climate justice. We provide training to both sets of partners to facilitate effective, rewarding, and accountable partnerships.

For more information about EJAN

Please contact Denise, EJAN Coordinator, at 781-408-7857 denise@ace-ej.org

EJAN addresses important and unmet needs for environmental justice concerns in New England. By empowering community members and groups through access to pro bono legal and scientific expertise, communities will develop the capacity to advocate for themselves more effectively. Often, residents who have sought relief from specific hazards in their neighborhoods go on to become proactive advocates for system-wide changes. In the past, communities we have assisted have gone on to advocate for projects such as converting the public bus fleet from diesel to cleaner alternative fuels, cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields, and promoting a resident-centered vision of sustainable communities.

More broadly, EJAN’s work will demonstrate how environmental justice concerns should be considered in all decisions around siting new infrastructure and development. Community involvement is essential to environmental justice and equitable community development.

About EJAN

An earlier iteration of EJAN, formerly known as the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Assistance Network (MEJAN), operated from 1994 and was paused in 2015. EJAN is relaunching this May through a collaborative effort by Alternatives for Community & Environment, Boston University School of Public Health, Conservation Law Foundation, and Slingshot. Currently, we operate only in Massachusetts, but we plan to expand to other New England states as our network of volunteer experts grows.

Toxic Tours

Why does Roxbury have a children’s asthma hospitalization rate that’s nearly six times higher than the state average? Who’s making environmental decisions for us?

Join us in Dudley for a walking tour that shows how environmental racism and classism have impacted our community and how residents have won changes for a healthy and sustainable neighborhood. Learn about environmental history, what we’re doing now, and how you can make a positive impact on our community and environment.

FAQ

The tour lasts about two hours, and we can adapt the route for your availability. Meet us at the ACE office, 2201 Washington Street (rear entrance), and we’ll start the tour with a short discussion of environmental justice before heading out to see Dudley.

Our tour season is generally from April through October, with a winter hiatus from November through March. We are sometimes able to work with groups who want an early spring or late fall tour. We do not recommend winter tours, even for groups who are willing to brave the elements, because we’ve found that the cold seriously erodes people’s ability to concentrate. (Even when the coordinator of the group really wants everyone to pay attention.) On occasion, we may arrange for a winter indoor tour, which takes the form of a slideshow presentation. However, indoor tours are in no way an equal replacement for the outdoor walking tour.

Contact us a month or two before you would like your tour to be scheduled. For April tours, contact us in February.

Tours during the day are best, as it will be easiest to see the sites during daylight hours. During times of the year when there is less daylight, we may occasionally hold tours in the late afternoon that end after sunset, if that is what works for you. Again though, it’s not ideal for the best tour experience.

Yes, we are sometimes able to hold tours on weekends or holidays. If you are interested in a weekend or holiday, we invite you to contact us far in advance of when you would like a tour, so that we are able to work this into the schedule of tour leaders.

We highly recommend that your group check weather reports and dress appropriately for being outdoors for two hours. You may reschedule your tour for weather-related reasons if that is a concern. We are generally pretty hardy and will lead tours in the rain, but we may reschedule with you if we do not feel that it is safe for tour guides to be out in certain weather conditions.

It’s important to dress appropriately for chilly and/or rainy New England days. If it is cold, we recommend a warm coat, boots, scarves and gloves. If there is rain, we recommend raincoats, rain boots and umbrellas. Participants who do not have rain gear may want to consider bringing extra clothes, socks and shoes to change into after a rainy tour.

We invite all groups to join us. If you are a teacher in Boston Public Schools, contact us about a Teacher Toxic Tour or to find out how you can bring your students on a tour to learn about environmental justice.

We are happy to work with the size of your group. Here are some general guidelines: Groups of 15 people or less are an optimum size. While we are able to accommodate larger groups, we find that people tend to have a better experience in groups that are no bigger than 25 people. The larger a group, the harder it is for everyone to hear the tour leaders, and the longer we spend walking and waiting for everyone to assemble.

We can sometimes break a very large group into multiple groups for concurrent tours. This will take more coordination and most likely require more than two hours.

We are happy to work with you to accommodate the needs of your group. Some groups have rented vans and buses to use for a driving tour. It’s not the same as a walking tour, but it’s better than an indoor tour. If some of your participants are not able to walk for two hours, we can arrange for you to have a map and a tour itinerary, if you would like to drive some people between stops.

Yes, you may leave bags and other personal items in our office if you do not wish to carry them with you. If members of your group arrive via bike, we recommend taking bicycles up to our office to be stored, rather than locking them on the street.

We ask for a sliding scale honorarium, from $100 to $500 an hour, with the higher end for businesses and universities, and the lower end for Boston Public School classrooms. Toxic Tours take about two hours. For residents of EJ neighborhoods (particularly those who are low-income), we may waive honorariums or arrange for an exchange of volunteer hours.

"The electroplating factory and piles of rubble were obvious health risks to students at the nearby middle schools and daycare, yet the management of the factory and construction agency did nothing to help or warn the population...I could not believe that somebody could care so little about the safety of a large population."
C.B., Milton Academy student