The Department of Transportation (Department or DOT) continued our work to achieve Environmental Justice (EJ) in all Departmental policies, programs, and activities throughout 2011. DOT revised the Department's 1995 EJ Strategy per the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice in August, 2011.1 This revision was an opportunity to ensure that EJ was being properly implemented throughout all programs and to consider new ways to strengthen our EJ commitment. The Department's intermodal working group on EJ developed several key areas of focus, including public outreach and harmonization across the modes, particularly during the planning and NEPA processes.
The revised DOT EJ Strategy was publicly posted on September 30th, 2011, and public comments were invited through email as well as through an innovative online dialogue site. This online site–the EJ Ideascale–offered the public an opportunity to comment on the DOT EJ Strategy and also to read and respond to comments offered by other participants. In addition to this online dialogue, representatives from DOT discussed EJ policy changes and the strategy revision at internal and external webinars and national meetings. The outreach effort culminated in a National Roundtable on Environmental Justice on November 21, 2011. At this event, community advocates, transportation stakeholders, and members of the public were able to come together to hear from DOT's senior leadership and to discuss ongoing EJ problems and solutions. A video and transcript of that meeting have been made available online.2
The goal of the Department is to maintain a consistent approach to EJ, while allowing the Operating Administrations the flexibility necessary to implement the goals of EJ, as appropriate, to their programs. As revised, the Strategy commits the Operating Administrations to producing or reviewing their guidance, policies, or tools to implement the goals of EJ, which will help both grantees and Federal-program staff as they integrate these goals into their programs.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) had a number of activities and accomplishments relating to Environmental Justice, including training and other capacity-building efforts, public engagement, and new policies and strategies. The major activities are listed below:
Solicitation from stakeholders within our Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Program will provide research on emphasis areas within the DOT EJ Strategy, which will provide FHWA an opportunity to develop best practices, address challenges and barriers, and improve or streamline internal coordination and organization.
In order to provide clear guidance to the 900 plus Federal Transit Administration (FTA) recipients, FTA published in the Federal Register on September 29, 2011, two notices describing proposed circulars: a new circular entitled "Environmental Justice Policy Guidance for Federal Transit Administration Recipients" (Circular 4703.1)6; and a significantly revised proposal for FTA's current circular guiding Title VI implementation, entitled "Title VI Requirements and Guidelines for Federal Transit Administration Recipients" (Circular 4702.1B)7. The circulars were under review and comment from September 29 to December 2, 2011.
FTA conducted several webinars on the circulars; held information sessions in Kansas City, Boston, Detroit, the San Francisco Region (Berkeley), and Atlanta; and held two additional meetings with key stakeholders, including the American Public Transit Association (APTA). The five information sessions were attended by representatives from public advocacy groups, the transit industry, metropolitan transportation organizations, and consultants. These community-based efforts were very enriching for both FTA, and the participants. FTA's online webinars were specifically designed to reach the transit industry and transit professionals.
FTA reached approximately 1,000 people through its combined public outreach efforts with over 400 people attending the Information Sessions and over 500 people participating in the online webinars. As of December 31, 2011, comments to the docket included:
FTA updated its agency web site. this year and now prominently displays Title VI and Environmental Justice, as one of five topics on its front page. This provides significant visibility and ease of access for interested persons. FTA also provided online assistance for those who wished to submit comments to the docket on the proposed Title VI and EJ Circulars.
FTA's Office of Civil Rights provided increased technical assistance in 2011 to the regions in conducting EJ analysis as part of NEPA assessments.
FTA leadership held a face to face public engagement session on April 26, 2011 with the Asian Business Community to discuss the community's Environmental Justice concerns regarding a local transit project.
FTA established ten environmental specialist positions and placed one in each of the agency's regional offices to provide technical support and thorough NEPA review, including the Environmental Justice oversight.
FTA worked collaboratively on EJ matters throughout the year with other Federal Departments, other DOT Operating Administrations, and with the Department's Office of the Secretary (OST). This included participating in the EPA Interagency Working Group (IWG) on Environmental Justice and on the associated IWG Stakeholder committee responsible for the National IWG EJ Outreach. FTA representatives also participated in six EPA IWG EJ Stakeholder Outreach Sessions in 2011, including those held in Brooklyn, May 12; Boston, June 21; Tulsa, June 29; Detroit, August 24; Richmond City, CA, November 3; and Denver, November 16.
On December 6, 2011, FTA participated in a webinar called "Let's Talk Planning on Environmental Justice." This was an internal webinar for FTA and FHWA staff, sponsored by the FHWA Office of Planning and FTA Office of Planning and Environment. Speakers from the U.S. DOT Office of the Secretary (OST), FHWA Office of Planning, and FTA Office of Planning and Environment provided information on the status of several activities underway in OST, FHWA, and FTA relating to Environmental Justice and Title VI guidance.
FTA worked with FHWA to update the Certification Review Handbook, specifically the chapter regarding Title VI and EJ, and to update the EJ sections of the National Transit Institute/National Highway Institute course on "Public Involvement in Transportation Planning".
FTA, FHWA, and OST staff participated in Team-EJ, the subcommittee of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities that focuses on livability and EJ.
During the fall of 2011, FTA participated in the Department's EJ working group and assisted in revising the DOT EJ Strategy and the associated DOT outreach. In addition, FTA assisted the Department in the planning, development, and delivery of its outreach including: OST /Modal Webinar; the National EJ Online Dialogue; face to face outreach at the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) Conference in Texas; and finally, FTA leadership spoke as part of the National Roundtable on Environmental Justice-an OST-sponsored stakeholder roundtable-at which FTA staff aided in facilitating small group discussions.
Environmental Justice continues to be an agency priority. The Performance Plan for 2012, developed in 2011, clearly identifies Environmental Justice as an agency priority.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ensures compliance with EO 12898 and incorporates Environmental Justice core principles into its actions primarily through implementation of the NEPA process. FAA Order 1050.1E (Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures) contains the FAA agency-wide policies and procedures for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Currently, FAA Order 1050.E provides guidance to FAA NEPA practitioners on compliance with special purpose laws, regulations, executive orders, and other requirements, including Environmental Justice.8 In addition to this FAA agency-wide order, the FAA Office of Airports has issued guidance for compliance with Environmental Justice requirements for its actions. That guidance is found in Chapter 10 of the Environmental Desk Reference for Airport Actions.9
FAA is in the process of revising Order 1050.1E and developing a Desk Reference. One of the Desk Reference Chapters will include Environmental Justice and will provide guidance to NEPA practitioners on how to implement the DOT Environmental Justice Strategy. The Final Desk reference is expected to be available by the end of 2013.
The FAA Office of Civil Rights is in the process of drafting order 1400.11, "Non Discrimination in Federally Assisted Programs of the Federal Aviation Administration." This order will include internal guidance on Title VI and Environmental Justice, and requirements for coordinating the review of airport projects for compliance with Title VI and EO 12898. This order is expected to be completed by the end of 2012. FAA's Office of Civil Rights also presented a brief overview of DOT's renewed EJ efforts to participants at the December 5-7, 2011 Airport Council International (ACI) Conference on Airport Planning and NEPA Workshop in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is reinvigorating its EJ efforts beginning with participation as a member of the DOT Working Group. EJ is an integral part of the building of High-Speed Rail in America. EJ analysis is a routine part of FRA's environmental documentation and approval process. With the update to the U.S. DOT Environmental Justice (EJ) Order, FRA will integrate any changes into the NEPA practices. FRA currently works with our partners in other operating administrations (such as FTA and the Maritime Administration) on issues involving multimodal projects (such as rail/transit stations and rails operating out of ports).
FRA is in the process of developing EJ educational material for grantees to reflect the revised DOT EJ strategy and specifically address rail project issues. Through the NEPA process, sponsors are encouraged to engage affected minority and low income communities, to solicit comments on the project's possible impacts. In the past, project sponsors have conducted special outreach sessions for EJ communities including providing alternative-language interpreters and publication materials.
In the High-Speed Rail project-one of FRA's major initiatives-the traditional EJ analysis in the NEPA process did not provide the most up-to-date data for the analysis. The example below shows how the EJ analysis was conducted.
Example of Environmental Justice (EJ) Methodology and how it applied to the California High-Speed Train Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)/ Fresno to Bakersfield Section: non-traditional analysis
Environmental justice (EJ) is the requirement that federal agencies address, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, the potential disproportionately high, adverse human health and environmental impacts of their programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations.
The EJ analysis conducted for the Fresno to Bakersfield Section of the California High-Speed Train Project EIS identified the potential for the project and alternate alignments, to result in disproportionately high and adverse effect on minority and low-income populations across several county and local jurisdictions.
The EJ study area included all census blocks and block groups within a 0.5-mile of the BNSF Alignment, as well as station and heavy maintenance facility locations.
Data was used from the 2000 Census, identifying blocks and block groups, including minority persons: defined as individuals identified as non-White and Hispanic or Latino; and low-income persons: defined as those individuals with household incomes below the poverty threshold.
The EJ analysis for this project was conducted in mid-2010, when the 2000 Census data was the most recent data available. It was determined that demographics may have changed within the study area over the decade. Therefore, to confirm the findings in the traditional EJ analysis, additional quantitative and qualitative methods were undertaken.
Quantitative analysis included examining more current data sources that would indicate the locations of communities of concern such as: the American Community Survey and participation data by zip code for state social service programs, food stamps, Section 8 housing and free or reduced-fee school lunch programs.
Qualitative investigations included outreach to 22 local agencies and organizations inquiring about recent changes in local demographics leading to changes in the locations of identified as EJ communities of concern. Local experts were also asked to review maps of the identified EJ communities of concern, to assess whether or not the locations and/or boundaries represent known minority and low-income populations.
EJ communities of concern along the alternative alignments were targeted for additional public engagement. The communities identified included the cities of Corcoran, Allensworth, Wasco, and Shafter, as well as West Fresno and East Bakersfield (generally east of Union Street between the UPRR tracks and California Avenue), California. Special outreach conducted for minority and low-income populations in these communities included Spanish-language publicizing of meetings, availability of Spanish-language versions of presentation materials, and availability of Spanish interpreters at public meetings. Local elected officials were invited to each of these meetings, along with any other known community leaders.
Public comments from minority and low-income communities expressed concerns similar to those received from all communities along in the project area. For example: Noise, visual impacts, division of community, accessibility, safety, and pollution. Outreach to affected communities has been and will continue to be conducted as part of the Authority and FRA decision-making process.
The EJ analysis determined that the project impacts occurring disproportionately on minority and low-income populations would be concentrated in urban areas along the BNSF Alternative. These impacts would include an increase in both ambient noise levels and vibratory impacts above standards; disruption to the cohesion of the EJ communities of concern divided by proposed rail facilities and affected by the displacement of community facilities; a loss of some park, recreation, and open-space lands due to acquisition; changes in community character from the operation of the project; changes to aesthetics and visual resources as a result of impacts on visual quality, decreases in visual quality, and noise walls blocking views; and cumulative impacts for noise and vibration, aesthetics and visual resources, and cultural and paleontological resources.
In accordance with Executive Order 12898, offsetting benefits should be considered when evaluating potential disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority or low-income populations. The proposed project overall would result in long-term economic benefits to the region, including employment growth and related increased revenues to local governments.
A majority of the construction and operation jobs would be filled by the regional labor force and thus would benefit regional employment broadly due to multiplier effects. The jobs would not disproportionately benefit minority and low-income populations in the absence of special recruitment, training, or job set-aside programs.
Although elevated guideways would introduce significant adverse aesthetic and visual impacts through Bakersfield, station construction and planned station area improvements in downtown Fresno and Bakersfield would improve the aesthetics and visual environment in both of these locations, benefiting the nearby minority and low-income communities. Other station-related benefits, including improved accessibility and property value increases, would benefit those who live and work closest to the new stations. In Fresno and Bakersfield, these benefits would be disproportionately incurred in minority and low-income communities.
In order to evaluate their current situation in the EJ subject area, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) has done a review of existing in-house documentation for their operating administration on Environmental Justice. This process was designed to enable MARAD to determine what had been advanced over the past years and update or create new information accordingly.
Additionally, MARAD will generate a presentation that the Director, Office of Environment in MARAD will take with him to regional offices to brief personnel. These regional office briefings will occur in early 2012, and will be an opportunity to discuss a number of Office of Environment initiatives and inform personnel on issues important to the Department, including Environmental Justice.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has developed an administrative policy on Environmental Justice to ensure that PHMSA identifies and addresses, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of agency programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations. PHMSA is committed to ensuring that its regulatory efforts and interaction with the public is consistent with the directives of the EJ initiative. PHMSA is also updating its web site. so that the public will have access to information about how the agency is implementing its EJ responsibilities.
The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) has worked on the DOT Departmental NEPA guidance working group led by DOT's Chief Counsel's Office. As part of this work, FMCSA has advised the group on compliance with Environmental Justice authorities. This work included review of E.O. 12898, CEQ guidance of 12/10/07, and DOT Order on Environmental Justice 5610.210 (4/15/97). This research led to recommendations to amend the language in the order (current 5601.1D) to clarify Environmental Justice requirements.
FMCSA has also incorporated Environmental Justice issues into its NEPA process since the drafting of FMCSA's NEPA Order in 2007. FMCSA thoroughly examines the potential impacts to populations covered by E.O.12898 in FMCSA rulemaking or, for rules with possible environmental impacts, in its NEPA review, though FMCSA actions rarely impact the environment in any significant way. This includes the potential of increased air emissions to these communities or increased truck traffic and noise.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) continues to address Environmental Justice issues primarily through the NEPA review process. In the agency's NEPA documents prepared in conjunction with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program and fuel efficiency improvement program for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, NHTSA has analyzed potential disproportionately adverse human health and environmental impacts to minority and low income populations projected to occur as a result of increasing the fuel efficiency of the Nation's vehicle fleets. NHTSA also plans to address potential EJ issues in its forthcoming Environmental Assessment, for the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010.
8 see Order 1050.1E, Appendix A, Section 16, page A-69 at http://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/order/energy_orders/1050-1E.pdf