One page descriptions of a technique or action for a given designer, planner, engineer or project manager to take.
Sustainable Engineering Process
Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and polices.
How does Environmental Justice relate to the Transportation/Infrastructure Projects and Programs?
Executive Order 12898 - Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority and Low-Income Populations (EO 12898) issued by President Clinton in 1994 directs federal agencies to "promote nondiscrimination in federal programs substantially affecting human health and the environment, and provide minority and low-income communities access to public information on, and an opportunity for public participation in, matters relating to human health or the environment." The Order directs agencies to use existing law to ensure that when they act they:
Rooted primarily in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 federal agencies have answered the directives included in Executive Order 12898 and have issued subsequent guidances that specifically address environmental justice. The U.S. Department of Transportation Order 5610 and Federal Highway Administration Order 6640.23 provide additional guidance, and require that federally funded or permitted transportation projects address disproportionately high and adverse effects by employing three fundamental principles of environmental justice:
The cornerstone of any full environmental justice program is focused on several key elements: environmental justice population identification, impact assessment and analysis which includes disproportionate effects determinations, avoidance, minimization and mitigation considerations, and the provision of opportunities for public involvement. While a specific project or program may only focus on one of these key areas or several depending on the context of the issue at hand there are several methods used to achieve the stated objective. The basic concepts of each principle element are discussed below and several methods to gather or determine the applicability of data are presented.
Environmental Justice Population Identification
Before impact analysis can begin the first step is to identify the applicable environmental justice populations or indicator populations. The Executive Order requires analysis to assess the potential effects on minority and low-income populations in a given geographic area. The definitions of these populations, which are unique to an environmental justice analysis, are based on CEQ guidance and DOT Order 5680.1 and are as follows:
While the definition of environmental justice populations is widely accepted in the U.S., the methods used to identify protected populations are not. One commonly used method is to use decennial U.S. Census Data. Other methods used to identify environmental justice populations include, but are not limited to threshold analysis, spatial interpolation, personal interviews, field survey, historic data review, and information obtained through public involvement and outreach process. Several of these methods are described as follows:
The gathering of data related to indicator groups is also important to identifying environmental justice populations. Indicator can include limited English proficient (LEP) and/or English as a second language (ESOL) populations, disabled populations, transit dependent populations and children among others.
Environmental Justice Impact Assessment and Analysis
Once, the environmental justice populations have been identified then the impact assessment and analysis step can begin. Largely and exercise based on the practitioners experience and understanding of the project or program this step is critical to understanding the various positive and adverse effects based on environmental, social and financial factors. While practitioners are not required to be experts in all subject areas it is important to review published reports, maps and policy that have documented project or program impacts. Using these general impacts as the baseline then potential effects to environmental justice populations can be assessed. To analyze these impacts to determine disproportionate effect determinations practitioners should create maps to illustrate effects, conduct field studies and consult with other professionals that may be knowledgeable in specific areas to glean information concerning specific technical effects. Effects can be direct, indirect or cumulative. They also include non-environmental factors such as funding, user access and policy based decisions. The Community Impact Assessment books by FHWA or the "Purple Books" as commonly referred to by transportation professionals are useful. These books assist in assessing impacts for the general population and are often helpful in apply those principles to environmental justice populations to quantify and qualify effects, these are of course in addition to regulatory or accepted industry analysis methods used to quantify effects.
While there is no instruction booklet on "what" constitutes a disproportionate high and adverse effect as series of questions and guidebooks are helpful. Samples of these leading questions are as follows:
It is important to note that the identification of a disproportionately high and adverse effect on environmental justice populations does not preclude a project from moving forward. Steps to avoid, minimize and mitigate direct or indirect impacts and effects may often provide a solid case for a project moving forward. Community involvement and participation in the process often leads to mutual benefits.
Public Involvement and Outreach
While public involvement and outreach programs to engage environmental justice populations is primarily what people remember it is part of the analytical process. Depending on project complexity and size the goal of "providing opportunities to engage and inform" can be quite difficult. Outreach to low-income and minority communities is often a science all of its own. A variety of common tools and techniques utilized for general public involvement programs may be appropriate however, considerations should be made to make the extra effort to truly meet and surpass the requirements. Steps should include the following:
While no one method as become accepted as an industry standard. Many practitioners use a combination of methods during all aspects of the environmental justice assessment and analysis or public involvement program, taking care that their approach is tailored to a particular project and is comparable to its scale and that of the area in which the effects may occur.
Related External Resources: