Third-year environmental law student, Daeja Pemberton, hails from Killeen, Texas. A double Aggie, Pemberton came to law school with a B.S. in Meteorology and minors in Environmental Geosciences and Climate Change from Texas A&M University. Pemberton recently had an article focusing on water justice accepted for publication in the January 2022 issue of the UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy.

Pemberton’s article, Come Hell or No Water: The Story of Sandbranch and the Unincorporated Community Fight for Public Services, discusses the plight of the majority-Black unincorporated community of Sandbranch, Texas, located in Dallas County. Texas law does not require local governments to assist unincorporated communities to secure utilities and public services. Due to the population’s lack of resources, Sandbranch has never had access to running water and other basic public services. Pemberton’s article explores what it would take for Sandbranch to finally get the resources the community deserves and has spent decades fighting to receive.

Article Abstract

Sandbranch is the only unincorporated community left in Dallas County, and the residents of this majority-Black, impoverished community have had their cries for basic necessities — such as clean, running water — largely ignored. With the County and the City of Dallas not remedying the problem so far, there is a question as to who is responsible for getting water and other public services to the community’s eighty residents. As it currently stands, Texas law simply permits local governments to offer assistance to unincorporated communities and does not take affirmative measures to ensure these communities are provided for. What is the scope of the existing local government laws when it comes to getting public services to unincorporated areas, and what will it take for Sandbranch to finally get the resources it has been fighting to receive for decades?

Throughout her undergraduate and law school education, Pemberton has prepared for a career in environmental law and justice, advocating for marginalized communities who feel disproportionate effects of pollution and climate change. Pemberton is specifically interested in the small-scale effects anthropogenic pollution has on communities, as opposed to the large-scale impacts on the entire globe. Her interest in localized environmental justice led Pemberton to write on Sandbranch’s plight for basic necessities.Pemberton hopes her article “prompts local and state governments to pay more attention to the plight of unincorporated communities, especially those that are facing environmental injustices like Sandbranch.In addition to discussing the history of Sandbranch, Pemberton’s article also discusses the efforts of community leaders to obtain critical public services for the community.

The article then compares Texas’s legal framework relating to unincorporated communities to that found in California. Pemberton chose California as a comparison because much of the legal literature for unincorporated communities focuses on California. In comparing the two systems, Pemberton aims to determine whether local and state governments have a duty to provide services for unincorporated communities like Sandbranch, and proposes possible solutions for Sandbranch and other similarly situated communities.