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Rutgers Journal of Law and Urban Policy

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The residents of Camden, New Jersey do not live in a bustling city as do residents living across the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Instead, Camden's largely minority population lives in an environmentally and economically devastated neighborhood replete with two Superfund sites. Garbage incinerators, sewage treatment plants and polluting factories have been placed in Camden because the poor have historically been less likely to protest than wealthier communities. In 1997, concerned Camden residents formed the South Camden Citizens in Action ( SCCA ) association to confront the continued encroachment by polluting factories and sewage treatment centers threatening their lives and health. The passionate citizens were determined to fight on behalf of their community both politically and in court. This article chronicles the SCCA s fight against the Department of Environmental Protection ( DEP ) and the Saint Lawrence Cement Company. The DEP s myopic view of its responsibility to protect this disadvantaged community initiated a political fight to prevent the issuance of any more permits to polluting companies. In the St. Lawrence case, the SCCA became the first plaintiff in a civil rights environmental justice suit to prevail on the merits on a cause of action based on EPA administrative regulations. The success, however, was bittersweet as just a few days later, the United States Supreme Court undermined the entire basis of the New Jersey state decision, determining in a different case that private plaintiffs cannot state a cause of action under EPA administrative regulations. After making a detailed examination of the legal battles fought by Camden residents, this article concludes by questioning whether Civil Rights is the most effective answer to the environmental justice issue and arguing that other initiatives may provide a better solution.