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In 1994, federal Executive Order 12898 directed every federal agency to make environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing the effects of all programs, policies and activities on "minority populations and low-income populations."
The order reads: "Each federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies and activities on minority populations and low-income populations."
The order reinforces what has been law for more than three decades - Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which reads: "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color or national origin be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any programs or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
The executive order essentially reminds all government agencies receiving federal funding that they are required to address discrimination as well as the consequences of all their decisions or actions that might result in disproportionately high and adverse environmental and health impacts on minority and low-income communities.
Environmental justice in the Department of Transportation
In 1997, the United States Department of Transportation issued its Order to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (DOT Order). The DOT Order addresses the requirements of Executive Order 12898 and sets forth DOT's policy to promote the principles of environmental justice in all programs, policies and activities under its jurisdiction.
Since the DOT Order was issued, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) have been working with their state and local transportation partners to make sure that the principles of environmental justice are integrated into every aspect of their mission.
The essence of effective environmental justice practice is summarized in three fundamental principles:
- Avoid, minimize or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority and low-income populations.
- Ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process.
- Prevent the denial of, reduction of or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income populations.
Monica Wauck, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last modified: December 20, 2013
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