Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice and National Environmental Policy Act

Environmental Justice Considerations In the NEPA Process

Federal agencies must consider environmental justice in their activities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Environmental Justice Interagency Workging Group (EJ IWG) recently developdeed the report Promising Practices for EJ Methodologies in NEPA Reviews, which is a compilation of methodologies gleaned from current agency practices. These practices were identified concerning the interface of environmental justice considerations through NEPA processes. Additionally, this page provides more resources to enhance environmental justice considerations in the NEPA review process.

  • Federal Guidance on Environmental Justice

    Executive Order 12898 (February, 1994) (PDF)(7 pp, 528 K), “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations” (EO 12898) directs each Federal Agency to “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,” including tribal populations.

    The Presidential Memorandum accompanying EO 12898 emphasizes the importance of using the NEPA review processes to promote environmental justice. It directs Federal agencies to analyze the environmental effects, including human health, economic, and social effects, of their proposed actions on minority and low-income communities when required by NEPA.

    The Memorandum calls for agencies to address significant adverse environmental effects on these communities in mitigation measures outlined or analyzed in:

    • Environmental assessments (EAs)
    • Findings of no significant impact (FONSIs)
    • Environmental impact statements (EISs)
    • Records of decision (RODs)
  • Agency Guidance Related to Environmental Justice and NEPA

    In light of Executive Order 12898, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued Environmental Justice; Guidance Under the National Environmental Policy Act (December, 1997) (PDF)(40 pp, 2.3 MB). This guidance includes six principles for environmental justice analyses to determine any disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects to low-income, minority, and tribal populations. The principles are:

    1. Consider the composition of the affected area to determine whether low-income, minority or tribal populations are present and whether there may be disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on these populations
    2. Consider relevant public health and industry data concerning the potential for multiple exposures or cumulative exposure to human health or environmental hazards in the affected population, as well as historical patterns of exposure to environmental hazards
    3. Recognize the interrelated cultural, social, occupational, historical, or economic factors that may amplify the natural and physical environmental effects of the proposed action
    4. Develop effective public participation strategies
    5. Assure meaningful community representation in the process, beginning at the earliest possible time
    6. Seek tribal representation in the process

    EPA's Final Guidance for Consideration of Environmental Justice in Clean Air Act 309 Reviews was developed for EPA reviewers commenting on other Federal agencies' NEPA documents to help ensure that environmental effects on minority and low-income communities have been fully analyzed. For each stage of the EPA Section 309 review process, this guidance provides:

    • An overview of environmental justice considerations to be addressed
    • Suggested solutions to issues and questions commonly encountered in environmental justice analyses

    EPA's Final Guidance For Incorporating Environmental Justice Concerns in EPA's NEPA Compliance Analyses provides guidance to incorporate environmental justice goals into EPA's preparation of EISs and EAs under NEPA. The guidance:

    • describes key environmental justice terms and factors and their application in the context of standard NEPA analyses
    • describes key steps in the NEPA process, including both EISs and EAs, where analyses of environmental justice concerns should be incorporated,
    • discusses public participation approaches of direct relevance to minority and/or low-income communities

    EPA's Interim Guidance for Considering Environmental Justice During the Development of an Action assists EPA program officials in integrating environmental justice into the EPA rulemaking process.

  • Methodologies that Support Environmental Justice Considerations

    Use of Health Impact Assessments (HIA):

    A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a systematic process for identifying the potential health effects of a new proposed action. The steps in an HIA can identify health disparities, which are a prime indicator of the existence of a disproportionate impact to minority, tribal or low–income communities.

    Due to the similarities of HIA to the NEPA process, an integrated process may avoid duplication, address local community concerns, contribute to planning, facilitate the quantification of health benefits, and help identify potential exposure pathways and impacts.

    The National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council report, Improving Health in the United States: The Role of Health Impact Assessment Exit offers guidance on conducting Health Impact Assessments in evaluating public health consequences of proposed decisions and offers suggestions that could minimize adverse health impact. Chapter 4 and Appendix F of the Report provide specific recommendations on the role of HIA in the NEPA process.

    An example of the integration of HIA in the NEPA process is BLM's Northeast National Petroleum Reserve Alaska Final Supplemental Integrated Activity Plan/Environmental Impact Statement. This EIS addresses public health considerations under each alternative and includes information concerning potential public health mitigation strategies.

  • Online Tools Support Environmental Justice Analyses

    Web-based geographic information systems (GIS) mapping tools can assist NEPA practitioners in defining, delineating, and profiling communities with environmental justice concerns.

    NEPAssist facilitates the environmental review process and project planning in relation to environmental considerations. The application draws environmental data dynamically from EPA regions' GIS databases and provides immediate screening of environmental assessment indicators for a user-defined area of interest.

    Health Landscape  Exit allows users to create simple displays of health data concerning neighborhoods communities, states or any other area of interest.

    Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) by State and County. The Health Resources and Services Administration defines HPSAs as having shortages of primary medical care, dental or mental health providers. HPSAs may be:

    • geographic (a county or service area),
    • demographic (low income population), or
    • institutional (comprehensive health center, federally qualified health center or other public facility).

Environmental Justice and NEPA Agency Resource Compendium: Key References

This page provides key references from the Environmental Justice and NEPA Agency Resource Compendium created by EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice and the NEPA Committee of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice. The compendium gathers into one place the Environmental Justice and NEPA documents from Federal agencies.

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