Companies have a long history of neglecting the environment (and people) in their pursuit of profit. The damage has been catastrophic, but because these rich companies are responsible for putting so many of our legislators and politicians in power, there has been little oversight — or little that has made a difference. It’s been mostly for showmanship. They’ve looked like they were doing something to hold these entities accountable. Sadly, that makes lawsuits difficult to build.
But they’re legal. And judges are more likely to allow these lawsuits to move forward than ever before. This is especially true when people and ecosystems were impacted.
The city of Minneapolis recently failed to complete its environmental review, but planned to proceed with a 2040 Comprehensive Plan — the aim of which is to create affordable housing —- without fully exploring the pros and cons such a plan would have on ecosystems. A judge recently ruled that a lawsuit against the city for failing to complete the review could move forward.
Attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong said, “This legal challenge to the 2040 Plan being proposed by the city of Minneapolis provides a key opportunity to shine a light on the environmental impacts of the plan, coupled with the social justice issues that will have a disparate impact upon low income communities of color. It is clear that the city failed in its duty to effectively engage the communities most impacted by this plan or to be transparent about the long-term unintended consequences that will ensue, which will likely include housing displacement and gentrification.”
Of course, this is only one example of environmental accountability. But it’s one that shines the light on something different. Instead of holding someone accountable for the consequences of actions already taken, the lawsuit helps hold them accountable for actions not yet taken. And that’s a gigantic step in the right direction.