ENVIRONMENTAL SENTENCING DISPARITIES IN THE U.S. PACIFIC NORTHWEST 2007-2011: A STORY OF EQUALITY?
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Previous research has determined that both street crime and environmental hazards are more likely to occur in poor and minority communities that lack the ability to create and draw upon systems of social control. In an effort to connect the fields of criminology and environmental inequality, scholars have explored whether communities of differing socioeconomic status are being equally protected from the risks of environmental crimes through the use of monetary fines. This area of research, however, has primarily focused on only civil cases. This dissertation uses the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) administrative cases in the US Pacific Northwest from 2007-2011 to assess whether fines are significantly influenced by the socio-demographic characteristics of the surrounding community. Community demographics were found to have no significant influence on fine assessment and severity after controlling for the type and severity of the offense as well as facility specific characteristics (e.g. repeat offender). Community demographics, however, indirectly affect sentencing outcomes by predicting violation type. Additionally, crisp-set qualitative comparative analyses determined that sentencing outcomes for a subset of violations were associated with the presence of a high socioeconomic status community. This research confirms the need for environmental inequality scholars, policy makers, and community activists to move beyond the issue of what facilities are sited where to how the interactions among facilities, communities, and regulatory agencies influence the consequences for committing environmental crime.