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Environmental Justice - 2012 Implementation Report

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) updated the DOT Environmental Justice Strategy in February 2012; in implementing this Strategy, DOT has focused on the goals of increasing transparency, public engagement, and intermodal harmonization within the Department. In addition to ongoing work considering EJ as part of the NEPA analyses for infrastructure improvements, the Department has also hosted or supported extensive training opportunities on EJ, and has published new and revised guidance and regulations to improve consistency across the Department. The Department cooperates with other Federal Agencies through the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice in order to integrate Environmental Justice principles into Federal programs, policies, and activities. Further, DOT participates in a subgroup on EJ through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities with the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies, which promotes Federal action to encourage sustainable communities with a variety of housing and transportation choices. This report details some of the specific activities undertaken to support Environmental Justice at DOT during 2012.

Department-wide Initiatives

Updates to the EJ Order, May 2012

The DOT EJ Strategy called for the Department to revisit the Departmental Order 5610.2 (Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations) and to make any necessary revisions and updates since its original publication in April 1997. On May 2, 2012, DOT published a revised Order 5610.2(a), which continues to be a key component of the Department's strategy to promote the principles of environmental justice in all Departmental programs, policies, and activities.

DOT Order 5610.2(a) sets forth the DOT policy to consider environmental justice principles in all DOT programs, policies, and activities. It describes how the objectives of environmental justice will be integrated into planning and programming, rulemaking, and policy formulation. The Order sets forth steps to prevent disproportionately high and adverse effects to minority or low-income populations through Title VI analyses and environmental justice analyses conducted as part of Federal transportation planning and NEPA provisions. It also describes the specific measures to be taken to address instances of disproportionately high and adverse effects and sets forth relevant definitions.

In updating the Order, DOT reaffirms its commitment to environmental justice and clarifies certain aspects of the original Order, including the definitions of "minority" populations in compliance with the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity of October 30, 1997. The revisions clarify the distinction between a Title VI analysis and an environmental justice analysis conducted as part of a NEPA review, and affirm the importance of considering environmental justice principles as part of early planning activities in order to avoid disproportionately high and adverse effects. The updated Order maintains the original Order's general framework and procedures and DOT's commitment to promoting the principles of environmental justice in all DOT programs, policies, and activities.

Environmental Justice Forum, July 2012

On July 17, 2012, DOT hosted a forum on Environmental Justice for transportation practitioners. This training was made available to staff from State and local DOTs, and MPOs, and was an opportunity to learn about the recent changes in Environmental Justice, including the changes to the DOT Order and the recently released FTA Circular on EJ. The objectives of the training were to share promising practices for conducting EJ assessments; learn about tools and strategies for public engagement, transparency, and accountability; and identify policy and program solutions to address emerging needs in environmental justice at the federal, state, and local levels. Through a series a break-out sessions, case-studies, and roundtable discussions, participants were able to learn new techniques and share best practices for successful public involvement. The day included a working lunch during which participants had an opportunity to engage in discussions about 10 different case studies or best practices, including the use of social media, partnerships with community colleges, and online dialogues. Participants also heard from a panel of community stakeholders, who shared their views for how to successfully engage environmental justice communities.

This forum was also an opportunity for grantees to identify areas of concern or confusion in the field of Environmental Justice analyses, and to share these concerns with staff and leadership at the USDOT. A report summarizing the events of the day and the best practices shared is being written and will be made available on the DOT website for practitioners who were unable to attend in person.

Initiatives within the DOT Operating Administrations

Federal Aviation Administration

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. Further information can be found in Order 1050.1E, Appendix A, Section 16, page A-69 at 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.

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 has drafted order 1400.11, "Nondiscrimination in Federally Assisted Programs at the Federal Aviation Administration." This order will provide internal guidance for implementation and enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and Environmental Justice in Minority Populations. Additionally, order 1400.11 will identify the procedures for coordinating the review of airport projects for compliance with Title VI and Executive Order 12898. This order is expected to be completed by the end of 2013. FAA's Office of Civil Rights formed a working partnership with the Office of Airports and developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU provides for the Office of Civil Rights under a 3-year pilot program to review the environmental justice section of Environmental Impact Statements for major airport projects; e.g., new airports, new runways, and major runway extensions, to determine if minority communities are adversely affected. The Office of Civil Rights and the Office of Airports also developed a Title VI Pre-Award Checklist to assist airport sponsors in meeting minority population reporting requirements.

Federal Transit Administration

FTA was a key participant at the July 17 EJ Forum. FTA senior leadership shared their knowledge and experience in organized panel discussions and addressed attendee questions in breakout sessions and during the open house.

On July 17, FTA issued new guidance to help recipients of FTA grant funding better understand and comply with EJ principles. FTA Circular 4703.1, Environmental Justice Policy Guidance for Federal Transit Administration Recipients became effective on August 15 and is the first stand-alone FTA guidance issued to address the intent of the 1994 Executive Order. The guidance reiterates recommendations to Metropolitan Planning Organizations, public transportation providers, State Departments of Transportation, and other recipients of FTA funds on how to fully engage EJ populations in the public transportation decision-making process; how to determine whether EJ populations would be subjected to disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects as a result of a transportation plan, project, or activity; and how to avoid, minimize, or mitigate these effects. The Circular does not present new requirements for funding recipients but emphasizes it is critically important to involve EJ communities early in the planning and environmental review processes that determine which transit services and projects will ultimately serve them.

In addition to the EJ Circular, FTA issued revised guidance, effective October 1, to help recipients of FTA grant funding better understand and comply with federal Title VI requirements. Circular 4702.1B, Title VI Requirements and Guidelines for Federal Transit Administration Recipients, provides guidance on how to comply with DOT's Title VI regulations. The regulations require careful evaluation of the impact of proposed service and fare changes on minority riders, and the provision of language access to persons with limited English proficiency. One of the significant changes to the Title VI circular was the removal of several references to EJ that will help transit agencies better understand the important distinction between Title VI and EJ.

FTA held a series of Webinars to review the content of the EJ Circular and to provide specific guidance on how our grant recipients should incorporate EJ review into their transportation planning and NEPA efforts. FTA held an internal Webinar designed for FTA Headquarters and Regional staff on September 18. FTA partnered with the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation in a free Webinar for the public, Addressing Environmental Justice in Transportation Planning Practice, on September 20. The Webinar was organized under a cooperative agreement with FHWA and in partnership with the American Planning Association's Transportation Planning Division. FTA hosted three external Webinars open to grant recipients, staff at MPOs, State DOTs, tribal organizations, and consulting firms on October 11, November 8, and December 11. The three Webinars drew 600 participants and brought together individuals working on EJ from all sectors of the transportation industry.

FTA continued its participation in the NEPA Committee of Federal Interagency Working Group (IWG) on EJ and on associated subcommittees - the Community of Practice Subcommittee and Education Subcommittee. The Community of Practice Subcommittee is creating a model EJ/NEPA checklist for use by NEPA practitioners. The Education Subcommittee is focusing on creating a national training module for EJ analyses in the NEPA process.

FTA established a separate review and tracking process for EJ analyses conducted under NEPA review based on the analysis framework documented in the EJ Circular. In addition, FTA updated our planning protocols to clarify how to satisfy EJ considerations in each step of the transportation planning process. Finally, FTA will be developing a training module for its Grantees on the application of EJ to transportation planning, programming and project development. FTA hopes to finalize this training in 2013.

Federal Railroad Administration

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) ensures compliance with EO 12898 and incorporates Environmental Justice core principles into its actions primarily through implementation of the NEPA process. Where environmental justice communities may be present, a community impact assessment is typically completed as part of the NEPA documentation.

FRA also participated in the July DOT EJ Forum, which offered practitioners an opportunity to learn best practices for conducting EJ analyses on multimodal infrastructure projects, including those that involve rail infrastructure.

FRA has recently launched a new public website, and plans to include EJ-specific content on the environment page in Winter 2013.

Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration

On February 22, PHMSA signed its EJ Policy committing to integrating EJ principles into its programmatic and regulatory processes, such as its legislative proposals, financial assistance programs, special permit request and review processes, rulemaking processes and environmental analyses.

Federal Highway Administration

The Federal Highway Administration conducts an array of activities relating to Environmental Justice. Multiple Offices, Field Offices, and research/technical assistance groups within FHWA conducted Environmental Justice activities in 2012. This report summarizes some of the key activities that were obtained through a call for information. Response to this call for information was strong, and future calls for information are likely to produce even more information about Environmental Justice activities at FHWA.

FHWA Headquarters

FHWA Headquarters conducted a wide variety of activities and accomplishments relating to Environmental Justice, including adoption of policy documents, publications/research, training, and other projects.

Policy Documents

Publications and Research


Other Projects

FHWA Field Offices

Federal Highway Administration maintains Division Offices in each state and the District of Columbia. Division Offices are responsible for working directly with sub-recipients to implement policies, including Environmental Justice. Staff members at Division offices play a critical role in upholding Environmental Justice, because they work directly with stakeholders, grantees, and the general public. Divisions were active in six general areas that support Environmental Justice: (a) professional development; (b) crafting policies or guidance; (c) public engagement; (d) training; (e) technical assistance; and (f) projects and programs. In many cases, the Division partnered with the state DOT, MPO, or another partner to complete the project. FHWA Divisions were sent an email to ask about Environmental Justice activities, and twenty eight Divisions sent a response.

Professional development work consists of efforts to improve staff (including grantee staff) knowledge of Environmental Justice. This also includes building of administrative capacity to study Environmental Justice. Professional development activities in 2012 included:

Divisions can also play a role in setting policies or guidance. Usually this involves a partner, such as the state DOT or an MPO. Examples of policies developed in 2012 include:

Public engagement is an important activity for Divisions. Examples of public engagement in 2012 were:

FHWA Divisions played a key role in offering training to practitioners in their state. Examples of training conducted in 2012 included:

Technical Assistance is an important activity for Divisions. Division staff support the work being done by state DOTs, MPOs, toll authorities, and local governments. Support comes in the form of specialized skills, convening power, and thorough knowledge of federal programs and obligations. Examples of technical assistance from 2012 included:

A variety of other projects that support Environmental Justice took place in 2012:

Interagency Initiatives

Participation in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities EJ Team

DOT staff participated in the EJ Team of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which promotes Federal action to encourage sustainable communities with a variety of housing and transportation choices. The focus of Team EJ is to advance the integration of sustainability principles into environmental justice (EJ) efforts and likewise to advance integration of EJ principles into the work of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities (PSC). During 2012, the EJ Team worked on also integrating ideas of health, sustainable siting, and environmental justice in sustainability policies, reaching out to the Centers for Disease Control to encourage their participation in discussions. The team also worked on defining performance measures that would address EJ as part of other sustainability measurements.

Participation in the EJ Interagency Working Group and Committees

Co-Chairing of NEPA Committee: The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is an important authority for achieving EJ and implementing Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. The Presidential Memorandum accompanying the Executive Order specifically recognizes the importance of procedures under NEPA for identifying and addressing EJ concerns for minority and low-income populations.

The 2011 Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898 (EJ MOU) identified "implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act" as a Federal agency action and responsibility. NEPA provides a critical opportunity to advance EJ through front-end, meaningful engagement of minority, low-income and/or tribal populations potentially impacted by Federal actions. The opportunities extend from better understanding of the potential impacts, to consideration of alternatives, and to identification of mitigation measures. Accordingly, the Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (IWG) formed the NEPA Committee, which is co-chaired by DOT and EPA, and currently consists of approximately 20 departments and agencies. Its purpose is to improve the efficiency of the NEPA process across the Federal government, in order to enhance consideration of EJ through the sharing of best practices and lessons learned in the areas of education, practice, and special topics.

The NEPA Committee is working toward the mission set forth in the Executive Order. DOT contributed substantially to the work of the committee, including:

Participation in Title VI Committee: The Presidential Memorandum accompanying Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations directs each Federal agency, in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to ensure that all programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance that affect human health or the environment do not directly, or through contractual or other arrangements, use criteria, methods, or practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Title VI prohibits recipients of Federal financial assistance from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal assistance. DOT has a Departmental Office of Civil Rights as well as Civil Rights Offices in each Operating Administration, which are responsible for ensuring compliance with Title VI by their funding recipients. Department of Transportation serves on the Title VI Committee of the Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group. The committee supports agencies' efforts to connect their civil rights enforcement responsibilities with their efforts to achieve environmental justice.

Participation in Goods Movement Committee: Goods movement refers to the distribution of freight (e.g., raw materials, parts, and finished consumer products) by all modes of transportation, including marine, air, rail, and truck. Goods movement facilities, also called freight facilities, include seaports, airports, land ports of entry (i.e., border crossings), rail yards, and distribution centers. The U.S. has an extensive network of infrastructure to support goods movement, including highways, bridges, and rail lines. Goods movement activities have increased significantly in the past 20 years. In fact, container shipments quintupled at the ten largest U.S. container ports from 1980 to 2006, and over the last decade alone, shipments have grown by 81 percent. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) forecasts that between 2006 and 2035:

Minority, low-income and tribal populations have borne a disproportionate share of the impacts from goods movement, such as air and noise pollution. Per the EJ MOU, federal agencies have made goods movement a focus area when "identifying and addressing, as appropriate, any disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies and activities on minority populations and low-income populations." A keystone for meeting this requirement is interagency collaboration.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Environmental Protection Agency co-chair the IWG Goods Movement committee. The committee was established in 2012 and is currently composed of eight agencies. Outlined below are the committee's 2012 accomplishments.

Updated: 10/19/2015
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