Carlton Waterhouse

Carlton Waterhouse


* Began his legal career as an attorney with the EPA
* Was a board member of the Environmental Law Institute from 2019-21
* Was nominated by President Biden in 2021 to be Asst. Administrator of Office of Land & Emergency Management
* Accuses America & the West of “environmental racism”
* Advocates reparations for slavery
* Believes the U.S. should pay climate reparations to poor communities at home and to poor countries abroad
* Favors the defunding of police


Carlton Mark Waterhouse graduated from the Howard University School of Law in 1991 and then began his legal career as an attorney with the Environmental Protection agency (EPA), where he served in the Office of Regional Counsel in Atlanta and the Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C.   Waterhouse also holds two degrees from Emory University: a Master of Theological Studies degree and a Ph.D. in Social Ethics (2006). “I pursued my doctorate in social ethics to learn how to create laws and policies that treated people rightly and promoted justice for all,” Waterhouse said in a written statement in 2021, emphasizing that his research and writing were focused on “correcting environmental and other social injustices.”

In 2018, Waterhouse was in Brazil as a visiting professor on a Fulbright Scholarship conducting research on “social dominance in the criminal justice system, and police brutality against unarmed citizens.”

In 2019 Waterhouse took a job as a Professor of Law at his alma mater, Howard University. He had previously served as a Professor of Law, a Dean’s Fellow, and the Director of the Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Law Program at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

From 2019-2021, Waterhouse served on the Board of Directors of the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Law Institute.

In early 2021, the Joe Biden administration nominated Waterhouse, who at the time was the Deputy Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM), to become OLEM’s Assistant Administrator. (Until 2015, OLEM — which develops guidelines for waste disposal, supports states and localities in redeveloping brownfields, and deals with accidental chemical spills through the Superfund program — had been called the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response).

As of July 2022, Waterhouse’s nomination for the post of OLEM’s Assistant Administrator had not yet been confirmed by the U.S. Senate, as the committee considering the nomination had deadlocked twice in its votes.

Waterhouse’s Job As OLEM’s Deputy Assistant Administrator

The trade publication Waste Dive published an interview that it conducted with Waterhouse in May 2022. In it, Waterhouse pushed the idea of so-called “environmental justice,” even though the environment has no legal standing because it is not a person. Noting that President Biden had directed EPA leaders to focus on “integrating environmental justice considerations into our plans and actions,” Waterhouse explained: “Environmental justice begins with understanding what impacts you’re having across all of your activities in the communities where you are located. One example is just to be a good neighbor, meaning you understand the footprint that you have in your neighborhood. You’re aware of the noise impacts; you’re aware of the odor impacts; you’re aware of disease vectors that might be associated with your operation. You’re aware of how particulates from your facility are impacting your neighbor; you’re conscious of surface water runoff coming from your facility and how that’s impacting your local community as well as groundwater impacts that come from your operations. Even truck traffic.”

The EPA’s approach to “environmental justice,” said Waterhouse, “is the way that these programs and efforts make sure, from the beginning, that no communities are left behind and that these industrial operations don’t have to be adversarial in their relationships with communities. In fact, they can enhance community life through employment and through good green practices.”

Claiming that recent data showed “the very close relationship between people’s exposure to pollution and historic practices of redlining across many places in the country,” Waterhouse said: “So operations can understand how they fit within that historical footprint as a better way of getting a sense of environmental injustice as well, to see how past practices of racial discrimination may have influenced some of the zoning and land-use decisions around them. It will help them to better understand how their communities came to exist, who came to live there then, who does live there now, and what limited options might they have had historically.”

Reparations for Slavery

In his 2006 doctoral dissertation at Emory University, titled “The Full Price of Freedom: African American’s Shared Responsibility to Repair the Harms of Slavery and Segregation,” Waterhouse argued that the U.S. owed black Americans, many of whom were descended from slaves, compensation for slavery and the deleterious effects that their ancestors’ servitude supposedly had on present-day blacks. Reparations “usually refers to the debt to be paid to blacks by the American government, corporations, or individuals for the bondage and mistreatment that characterized the bulk of American history,” Waterhouse wrote. “This debt remains a critical feature of social justice in America today.”

In the same dissertation, Waterhouse proposed a model for reparations that “would allow funding to originate from a variety of sources including black communities themselves, the United States government, individual state governments, philanthropists, United States corporations, the United Nations, or a host of other places.” Moreover, he proposed that $50 billion be paid out for reparations — of which $25 billion would be for “economic reparations,” $20 billion would be for “educational reparations,” and $5 billion would be for “political reparations.”

This funding was needed because America had not done enough for blacks, Waterhouse wrote:

  • “[B]lack communities suffered numerous and diverse harms,” including “political, economic, and educational harms caused by the three hundred forty-four years of slavery and segregation.”
  • “Although law occasionally served to provide or protect the rights of blacks, it routinely excluded them from the rights provided to others and denied them access to the economic, political, and educational goods they needed.”
  • “[T]he reconstruction amendments to the Constitution and the post-Civil War civil rights legislation, like the civil rights laws of the 1960s and 1970s, failed to remedy the denials of the past by providing the victims of slavery and segregation, respectively, with resources to remedy the harms they suffered. Because of law’s inconsistency in protecting black rights and ineffectiveness in remedying the historic harms suffered by their communities, it represents an inadequate tool for making black reparations.”

Climate Reparations

Although support for slavery reparations has been popular among leftists for some time, reparations related to the climate is a more abstract, exotic concept that has yet to be widely embraced, even among radicals. Waterhouse wants that to change. He believes that the United States should have to pay so-called climate reparations to poor communities in the U.S. and to poor countries abroad, on the theory that American economic success impoverishes others. This belief is central to the zero-sum world of leftist thinking in which people can only become wealthy under capitalism by taking from others.

How exactly such a climate reparations scheme, which would be extremely complex in nature, would be carried out is unclear. At the same time, Waterhouse is critical of the environmentalist movement itself, arguing that it has left poor people and nonwhite minorities behind. As he said at the American Climate Leadership Summit in August 2020:

  • “Climate reparations is really just calling for the equitable redress for the harm that has been caused historically. That’s what it’s about—making amends. I think climate reparations are essential and an important part of having an equitable climate vision.”
  • “I think we have to understand that we’re not able to get to an equitable climate solution if we don’t address the inequities in our society. So ultimately, our environment is just one larger part of the social world in which we live.”
  • “When we think about an equitable climate solution, we’ve got to think about how to equitably deal with this social inequality and injustices that result from our history of gender, race, and class discrimination. And that kind of reality means that we have to envision a space where those are not present. As long as gender and race and class discrimination define people’s experiences in our society, they will also define their experiences in relationship to the environment. And so that has to be the central part of really moving us forward to address an accurate and equitable climate vision.”
  • “[It is vital to be] engaging as allies and as advocates for marginalized communities, for communities of color, for working class, and low income communities. If you’re a part of an organization, or a church, or you’re just an individual who’s concerned about addressing climate change, then it’s important for you to serve as an ally, for those on the ground community-based environmental justice organizations, social-justice organizations that are fighting around issues of environmental justice.”
  • “As long as the people who are most at risk and most marginalized are neglected, we’ll never really have an equitable climate solution. But if we begin by looking to those who are most threatened, like those in Flint [Michigan], and in other cities like East Chicago, Indiana, when you look to those communities that are most threatened, most harmed, then you’re going to find solutions that are going to allow everyone to be able to succeed.”

American economic preeminence was to blame for the world’s most serious problems, Waterhouse argued at the same 2020 Summit:

  • “With regards to climate reparations, I might start off by saying the United States historically is one of the biggest contributors by itself, probably the largest historically of any contributors to climate problems at all, followed by Europe. When you put Europe and the United States together, you’re kind of talking about 90 percent of the contributors to the greenhouse gases that we are now suffering the consequences from. In contrast, the rest of the world combined probably has contributed roughly 10 percent.”
  • “We can … address climate change, and make the people who have the least responsibility shoulder the greatest burden of harm and the costs. But that’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s wrong. It’s not just, it’s unjust. It’s not equitable at all, and it’s unfair. And so as a result, climate reparations … help other countries prepare for and deal with the problems of climate. I think climate reparations are essential and an important part of having an equitable climate vision.”

Environmental Racism

Also at the American Climate Leadership Summit of 2020, Waterhouse expounded on the leftist theory of environmental racism, saying that:

  • “Marginalized communities within those countries that have gotten the least benefits out of that pollution, are also going to suffer some of the greatest harms from that. And around the world, countries that have had very little if any contribution towards climate change are suffering some of its worst consequences. Climate reparations is really just calling for the equitable redress for the harm that has been caused historically.”
  • It is impossible to achieve “an equitable climate solution” without addressing existing social inequities.
  • The environment “is just one larger part of the social world in which we live.”
  • In the early days of the environmental movement the environment — i.e., “the wilderness spaces, the untouched spaces” — were often viewed “as something separate from where people lived,” as “a place you go to go away from people.” But that perspective was racist and classist: “That kind of romanticism-based environmentalism really excluded people who lived in cities, working class people, poor people, people of color, largely from participating in being part of that movement.”
  • Much of the environmentalism which focused on preservation and conservation “was really grounded in protecting and preserving those spaces that people who had leisure time and had wealth had the ability to go away to and enjoy.”
  • This attitude hurt “other spaces,” which “were often neglected and unprotected.” These were the spaces “where people lived, where people work, where people played, who weren’t wealthy, who weren’t white, didn’t have the ability to be able to go away, and who were locked into inner cities or locked into barrios or locked onto reservations, their environments were where they lived primarily.”
  • Because environmentalism did not focus “on this constituency and these people until more recently … we’ve got to think about how to equitably deal with this social inequality and injustices that result from our history of gender, race, and class discrimination.”

EPA Nomination Troubles Because of Waterhouse’s Radical Track Record

As of July 2022, Waterhouse had twice failed to win Senate confirmation for the post of Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management. In December 2021, and again on April 7, 2022, the deadlocked Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works had voted 10-10 on Waterhouse’s nomination, thereby failing tp advance it.

Ranking GOP committee member Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia) said at the Senate committee meeting on April 7, 2022, that she was “troubled by Dr. Waterhouse’s personal views on the energy sector and capitalism.” “Dr. Waterhouse’s previous statements calling for the U.S. and other developed countries to pay ‘climate reparations’ to the rest of the world has given me pause,” Capito said in her opening statement. “I believe these viewpoints would impede his ability to carry out the Office of Land and Emergency Management’s duty to impartially consider stakeholder input and would unnecessarily politicize its mission of protecting public health from legacy pollution.”

Waterhouse’s Twitter feed, which had been unearthed by Capito, showed the nominee to be a staunch advocate of “social justice.” For instance, in a post suffixed with the hashtag “#ResistCapitalism,” he had tweeted on April 25, 2015: “The ugly truth about energy. The ends don’t justify the means.” A few weeks later, on May 17, 2015, Waterhouse had used the same hashtag for a tweet that read: “Inexpensive products have a high cost. Workers pay with their happiness, health & their lives.”

Conservatives pushed back against the Waterhouse nomination, BuzzFeed News reported on September 14, 2021:

  • Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican, described Waterhouse as an “extremist” who “supports fringe environmental and racist policies.”
  • Thomas Jones of the American Accountability Foundation called the nominee “a racist” who was “obsessed with pushing racially-divisive rhetoric and policies into every aspect of public life.”

Reaction to Waterhouse’s views also spurred additional revelations about the nominee’s radicalism. For example, it was learned that in June 2020, Waterhouse had appeared on the China Global Television Network (CGTN) — an entity controlled by the government of Communist China — to call for the defunding of police forces in the United States. Among his noteworthy quotes during that appearance were the following:

  • “The idea of defunding the police generally means we should reallocate the funds that are used for policing toward the actual services that are needed by communities.”
  • “There are places where we see that they don’t have robust police forces and they seem to be able to live their lives in a way that is acceptable and comfortable for them. In all honesty, if you think about all of our major police forces, we have spent all of our money on a possible cure rather than putting it into education, into health and into social services.”

By no means was this the first time that Waterhouse had publicly advocated the defunding of police. In August 2021, for instance, he and a number of fellow academics had signed an open letter stating that they were “inspired” by communities that had chosen to slash their police budgets. “Today’s calls to defund the police stem from a recognition that policing is rooted in anti-Blackness and the policy choices to impoverish people and then punish them for the predictable consequences of poverty,” the letter said.

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