In 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898, which directs that "each Federal agency and State Highway Administration/Department of Transportation 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 Environmental Justice Executive Order supplements the existing requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
The concept of environmental justice is intended to ensure that procedures are in place to further protect groups which have been traditionally underserved. The fundamental principles of environmental justice are:
- To avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority populations and low-income populations
- To ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process
- To prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income population.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is committed to the principles of environmental justice (EJ) and is assessing and documenting the impacts of transportation projects on minority and low-income populations as a normal part of our environmental analysis efforts.
A key aspect of an EJ analysis is to ensure the involvement of affected communities in the project development process.
Public involvement is the foundation to effectively integrating environmental justice concerns into transportation decision-making. It is not a separate task, but must be fully integrated within the full range of VDOT’s processes.
Outreach to the public is already a critical component of VDOT's project development process (as outlined in the Public Involvement Guide). Environmental justice simply requires us to ensure that minority and low-income populations are included in this public outreach.
These guidelines are meant to provide VDOT's Environmental, Planning, Right of Way, Location and Design, Civil Rights and any other applicable divisions with a consistent framework for both preparing an EJ analysis and developing an effective public involvement strategy.
They contain only principles and general procedures, which means that the specific approach must be tailored to the unique circumstances of each project and those communities affected by it.
If the procedures do not seem appropriate for a particular project, then the team should develop a more suitable approach.