The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Environmental Justice (EJ) defines EJ as:
The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people, including racial, ethnic, or socio-economic group should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local and tribal programs and policies.
EJ applies to all programs and activities of federal-aid recipients, whether those programs and activities are federally funded or not. This means that any agency that receives federal funds must:
- Make a meaningful effort to involve low-income and minority populations in the processes established to make decisions regarding its programs and activities, and
- Evaluate the nature, extent, and incidences of probable and adverse human health or environmental impacts of its programs and activities upon minority or low-income populations.
Environmental Justice Principles
Environmental Justice is not a new concern. The principles it embodies are rooted in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and previous civil rights legislation. Today, because of the evolution of the transportation planning process, EJ is simply a matter of increased awareness of the effects and impacts of transportation decisions on the human environment. There are three fundamental EJ principles:
- To avoid, minimize or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority 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 populations.