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This report analyzes key policy decisions, as well as actions and inaction under health, safety, and environmental laws, that could have better protected New Orleans from the effects of Katrina before the hurricane and those that could have improved the emergency response in its wake. In the area of public health, safety, and the environment, the paper explores the implementation of wetlands law and policy, bad decisions regarding the construction and maintenance of the levee system designed to protect New Orleans, pollution prevention and clean-up laws, and energy policy. In the area of emergency response, it reviews policy decisions related to evacuation, shelter, rescue, and relocation. It concludes by examining the overriding issue of how and why poor policy-making and short-sighted planning guaranteed that Katrina visited disproportionate suffering on New Orleanians who were poor and African-American.


This report is a collaborative effort of the following member scholars and staff of the Center for Progressive Reform: David M. Driesen, Syracuse University College of Law; Alyson Flournoy, University of Florida Levin College of Law; Sheila Foster, Fordham Law School; Eileen Gauna, Southwestern University School of Law; Robert L. Glicksman, University of Kansas School of Law; Carmen G. Gonzalez, Seattle University School of Law; David J. Gottlieb, University of Kansas School of Law; Donald T. Hornstein, University of North Carolina School of Law; Douglas A. Kysar, Cornell Law School; Thomas O. McGarity, University of Texas Law School; Catherine A. O'Neill, Seattle University School of Law; Clifford Rechtschaffen, Golden Gate University School of Law; Christopher Schroeder, Duke University School of Law; Sidney Shapiro, Wake Forest University School of Law; Rena Steinzor, University of Maryland School of Law; Joseph P. Tomain, The University of Cincinnatti College of Law; Robert R.M. Verchick, Loyola University, New Orleans; and Karen Sokol, CPR Policy Analyst.