Community Environmental Health and Justice Program

The Environmental Law Institute’s Community Environmental Health and Justice Program (CEHJ) works with grassroots, community based organizations and advocates to address challenges to their environment and health. Working in partnership with those who live the policies made by government, the program seeks to increase the capacity of community organizations and advocates to protect their health and environment. ELI does this by:

  • advancing effective implementation of environmental laws and regulations designed to protect community health and environment and ensure public participation in government decision-making;
  • providing education and training to grassroots community leaders and environmental justice advocates to strengthen their efforts to protect community health and environment;
  • developing and implementing programs that foster community and stakeholder involvement in all levels of government; and
  • promoting dialogue and collaborative problem-solving in government and private sector decision-making and use of government information.

The focus of the program is on the environmental justice and health challenges facing disadvantaged communities, specifically challenges stemming from exposure to pollution, lack of access to health care, and insufficient involvement in decision-making. ELI has collected its publications for community members at the Community Resource Center.

Recent Projects

ELI has a rich history of projects seeking to promote community health and justice. While the projects change, grow and evolve over time, the following are examples of recent past projects.

Using Environmental Laws and Alternative Dispute Resolution to Address Environmental Justice: This project helped grassroots community organization leaders understand how they can use the non-litigation opportunities, rules and tools provided by environmental laws and alternative dispute resolution (ELADR) to achieve environmental justice (EJ). The project enhanced the ability of community residents to address their local environmental and public health issues by working collaboratively with community organizations, NGOs, the private sector and government.

The Community Environmental Law Initiative:  This project was a partnership between ELI and the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice from 1994 - 2005. The project worked to demystify environmental law, creating workshops and other educational resources for communities in the Southwestern and Western U.S. and in Northern Mexico. The project provided information to help grassroots activists participate in law and policy decisions and processes that affect the environment and health of their communities.


For decades, ELI has trained community leaders in the skills needed to engage effectively in decision-making affecting public and environmental health in their neighborhoods. Training materials are essential to reinforce the information provided during training workshops. ELI has developed numerous educational documents and training tools related to environmental justice and community health. ELI’s publications can be downloaded for free. Please visit our Publications page.


Key staff include Senior Attorneys Tobie Bernstein and Lisa Goldman.