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
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
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
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
Prevent the denial of, reduction of or significant delay in
the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income populations.