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"In making determininations regarding disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority and low-income populations, mitigation and enhancements measures that will be taken and all offsetting benefits to the affected minority and low-income populations may be taken into account, as well as the design, comparative impacts, and the relevant number of similar existing system elements in non-minority and non low-income areas."
--from U.S. Department of Transportation Order on Environmental Justice
It has been The Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) and the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA's) longstanding policy to actively ensure nondiscrimination under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in Federally funded activities. Under Title VI and related statutes, each Federal agency is required to ensure that no person is excluded from participation in, denied the benefit of, or subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability. The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 clarified the intent of Title VI to include all program and activities of Federal-aid recipients, subrecipients and contractors whether those programs and activities are federally funded or not.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) stressed the importance of providing for "all Americans safe, healthful, productive, and esthetically pleasing surroundings", and provided a requirement for taking a "systematic, interdisciplinary approach" to aid in considering environmental and community factors in decisionmaking.
This approach was further emphasized in the Federal-aid Highway Act of 1970: 23 United States Code 109(h) established further basis for equitable treatment of communities being affected by transportation projects. It requires consideration of the anticipated effects of proposed transportation projects upon residences, businesses, farms, accessibility of public facilities, tax base, and other community resources.
On February 11, 1994, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12898: Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (PDF, 20KB). The Executive Order requires that each Federal agency shall, to the greatest extent allowed by law, administer and implement its programs, policies, and activities that affect human health or the environment so as to identify and avoid "disproportionately high and adverse" effects on minority and low-income populations.
In April 1997, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued the DOT Order on Environmental Justice to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (DOT Order 5610.2) to summarize and expand upon the requirements of Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice. The Order generally describes the process for incorporating environmental justice principles into all DOT existing programs, policies, and activities.
In December 1998, the FHWA issued FHWA Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (DOT Order 6640.23) that requires the FHWA to implement the principles of the DOT Order 5610.2 and E.O. 12898 by incorporating environmental justice principles in all FHWA programs, policies and activities.
The FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued a memorandum Implementing Title VI Requirements in Metropolitan and Statewide Planning on October 7, 1999. The memorandum provides clarification for field offices on how to ensure that environmental justice is considered during current and future planning certification reviews. While Title VI and environmental justice have ofter been raised during project development, it is important to recognize that the law also applies equally to the processes and products of planning. The appropriate time for FTA and FHWA to ensure compliance with Title VI in the planning process is during the planning certification reviews conducted for the Transportation Management Areas (TMAs) and through the statewide planning finding rendered at approval of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
The U.S. DOT published three related Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register for comment:
The U.S. DOT encourages all stakeholders to comment on these proposed rules during the 90-day comment period ending September 23, 2000. Written comments must be signed and submitted to: Docket Clerk U.S. DOT Dockets, Room PL-401 400 Seventh Street, SW Washington, DC 20590-0001 Respondents may provide comments to more than one NPRM in the same submission, as long as they include the appropriate docket numbers for the NPRMs and are clear about which NPRM they are commenting on within the response. Follow this link to U.S. DOT Dockets.