Path to Zero
Path to Zero
1.02 - Environmental Justice: What is it and Why is it so Important?

Alice KaswanIn the first of a two-part series on environmental justice, Tucker Perkins speaks with law professor Alice Kaswan about how pollution negatively impacts marginalized communities.

Alice Kaswan, professor and Associate Dean at the University of San Francisco School of Law, is a leading expert on climate change policy and environmental justice. She and Tucker tackle the critical issue of environmental justice and the role it plays in the overall decarbonization discussion.


Professor Kaswan has spent her career focusing on environmental law and how it impacts public health and safety. From pollution control to hazardous materials management to alleviating environmental contamination, she has championed solutions that offer the biggest health benefits.

By targeting the most polluted areas, policymakers can make significant strides in improving social justice for Americans of all walks of life. Reducing harmful pollution from school buses, trucks, refineries and mass transit not only slows climate change, but helps low-income communities live healthier, more productive lives.

Professor Kaswan also discussed two recent government initiatives and their potential impact on environmental justice. The California Air Resources Board adopted the Advanced Clean Trucks Regulation requiring manufacturers to transition from diesel trucks to electric zero-emission trucks beginning in 2024. By 2045, every new truck sold in California will be zero-emission.

On the federal level, a recent House select committee’s recommendations on climate change policy integrated concerns about air quality, emphasizing funding transitions to cleaner school buses and cleaner trucks in communities experiencing high burdens of pollution.

Tucker and Professor Kaswan closed the episode with a conversation on transitioning from traditional energy sources to clean energy and how that’s impacting communities – including Native American groups – from Appalachia to Texas and Louisiana. These and other states need new economic opportunities for the people who have relied on those industries for decades. A major environmental justice issue over the coming years will be finding ways to extend the benefits of a clean energy economy and new opportunities for areas that may experience a difficult transition.