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Environmental Justice

Introduction

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, or income, including tribal persons, with respect to both positive and negative environmental and health impacts of a project. Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-income Populations" (2/94) requires certain federal agencies, including HUD, to consider how federally assisted projects may have disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority and/or low-income populations.

Environmental justice is an integral part of HUD's mission. The Department works with multiple stakeholders and other federal agencies in its efforts to assure environmental justice concerns are addressed.

Important Considerations During the Environmental Review Process

  • Have any adverse environmental impacts from the project been identified?
  • What other environmental concerns or sources of pollution already impact the site area?
  • Is the proposed project located in a low-income and/or minority community?
  • Have the potentially impacted populations or communities been involved in the planning process of the project?
    • Has there been a strong effort to discuss the project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts with these communities?
  • Has the project considered any historical environmental injustices or disproportionate impacts burdening low-income and/or minority persons or communities?
  • Would the combined effects of all local sources of pollution pose an overly significant impact at the proposed project site?
  • Will climate change alter the impact a project has on the community?
    • How will this impact change over the project’s lifespan?
  • Are there ways to mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of a project on the marginalized community group?
    • What solutions has the community itself proposed?
  • Does the project cause any secondary effects that would have environmental justice consequences? For example, a need for new roads, degradation of water, etc.
  • Will any identified impacts on the community be disproportionate compared to the impact on the broader community?

Compliance and Documentation

Effective participatory communication and outreach are vital to adequately engaging low-income and minority persons and communities. Proper engagement with local community groups and grassroots institutions ensures a more equitable outreach process on a newly proposed project. Groundwork USA developed a guide, Best Practices for Meaningful Community Engagement, outlining optimal outreach techniques.

Promising Practices for EJ Methodologies in NEPA Reviews, a report produced by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Committee, compiles best practices for including robust environmental justice consideration into environmental reviews. The report underscores the importance of meaningful engagement efforts, finding these efforts are most effective when initiated early and conducted, as appropriate, throughout each step of the environmental review process. The Promising Practices Report goes on to describe guiding principles and specific steps which can be utilized to assess environmental justice.

The environmental review record should document the following:

  • Does the project create adverse environmental or human health impacts?
    • It may be useful to involve the community in initially identifying such adverse impacts.
  • If so, are these adverse environmental or human health impacts disproportionately high for low-income and/or minority communities?
    • Keep in mind that these communities may have greater-than-average vulnerability to environmental health stressors.
  • How did the project sponsor reach out to the community to identify mitigation measures to resolve adverse impacts?
  • How will the adverse impacts be mitigated?
    • Continue to engage the affected community in meaningful participation about mitigating the impacts or moving the project to a more appropriate location.

Review land use plans, census information and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Justice webpage (EJ View). Consider local government sources such as the health department or school district that may be more current or focused on the neighborhood as their unit of analysis.

The environmental review record should contain one of the following:

  • Evidence that the site or surrounding neighborhood does not suffer from adverse environmental conditions and evidence that the proposed action will not create an adverse and disproportionate environmental impact or aggravate an existing impact. (Describe how the proposed action will not have a disproportionate adverse impact on minority or low-income populations.)
  • Evidence that the project is not in an environmental justice community of concern (demographics, income, etc.)
  • If there are adverse effects on low-income or minority populations, documentation that the affected community residents have been meaningfully informed and involved in a participatory planning process to address (remove, minimize, or mitigate) the adverse effect from the project and the resulting changes

View Environmental Justice - Worksheet.

View Environmental Justice - Partner Worksheet.

Resources

To report an Environmental Justice civil rights concern, file a complaint with HUD online, or call 1-800-669-9777 or 1-800-877-8339.