DOI Makes Environmental Justice a Priority
The Department of the Interior plays a central role in how the United States stewards its public lands, increases environmental protections, pursues environmental justice, and honors our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes.
To meet the scope of environmental justice challenges, we are: Centering equity and environmental justice. The impacts of the multiple crises in the United States are not evenly distributed in our society. Communities of color, low-income families, and rural indigenous communities have long suffered disproportionate and cumulative harm for air pollution, water pollution, and toxics sites. At every step of the way, Interior will engage diverse stakeholders across the country, as well as conduct formal consultation with Tribes in recognition of the U.S. government's trust responsibilities.
The exact start of the environmental justice movement in American is not clear. Local groups have complained about unwanted land used for decades. Prior to the early eighties, these local protests were considered isolated and protesting communities were complaining by themselves and not associated with other similarly situated in other communities.
This isolated protesting all changed in early 1980s and the environmental justice movement became a national social and racial protest that galvanized communities across country seeking social justice and environmental protection.
The initial environmental justice spark sprang from a Warren County, NC protest. In 1982, a small, predominately African-American community was designated to host a hazardous waste landfill. This landfill would accept PCB-contaminated soil that resulted from illegal dumping of toxic waste along roadways. After removing the contaminated soil, the state of NC considered a number of potential sites to host the landfill, but ultimately settled on this small African-American community.
In response to the state’s decision, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and others staged a massive protest. More than 500 protesters were arrested. While the Warren County protest failed to prevent the siting of the disposal facility, it did provide a national start to the environmental justice movement.
Following the Warren County protest, people in poor minority communities created groups to fight the environmental burdens they claimed:
Resulted from being targeted by industry for activities that threaten the environment (e.g., use, storage and disposal of toxic chemicals); and
Produced high rates of environmental illness.
Another key event in the history of environmental justice is the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991. Representatives from hundreds of communities across the country came together in Washington, DC to focus national attention on what they perceived as a national problem – targeting minority communities. This summit was the first attempt to convene a large number of communities together to discuss the common interests and to seek a common solution.
EJ News Topics:
Environmental Justice Guidance Manuals
NEW » Technical Assistance Resources to Help Communities Unlock Opportunities from President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda
» Interim Guidance, OMB/CEQ dated July 20, 2021
» Guide to Finding Federal Assistance and Resources for Environmental Justice Efforts
» Community Guide to Environmental Justice and NEPA Methods
Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice
The EJ IWG hosts the Access & Awareness Webinar Series to provide public access to the working group and to increase community awareness of federal agency environmental justice strategies and holistic community-based solutions to address environmental issues. This series helps the public gain a deeper understanding of how federal agencies are collaborating and what resources are available to anyone interested in improving the health, quality-of-life, and economic opportunities in overburdened communities. epa.gov/environmenaljustice/ej-iwg-webinars
2019 National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program
For previous years, visit the Presentations page and scroll down. View photos from previous conferences.
Podcast: » Listen to Yale University's Climate Connections podcast. Kim Lambert, Environmental Justice Outreach Specialist, tells how residents of a polluted Albuquerque neighborhood turned farm area into green space for the community.
The U.S. Department of Interior
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Environmental Justice Report
Valle de Oro NWR releases their Environmental & Economic Justice Strategic Plan 2017-2020. The VDO EEJSP is the first-ever Service plan. The EEJSP is a step down plan of the U.S. Department of the Interior Environmental Justice Strategic Plan, which was development as a result of Executive Order 12898. The complete Valle de Oro Environmental & Economic Justice Plan is available at: www.FriendsOfValleDeOro.org
The White House
The Federal Government Response
In 1994, Executive Order 12898 “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Communities.” The Order directed federal government to make environmental justice a part of the federal decision-making process an integral part of their missions and to establish an environmental justice strategy. Specially, the Order directed federal agencies to:
- Make achieving environmental justice part of its mission to the greater extend practical and permitted by law by identifying and addressing high and adverse human health of
- environmental effects of its programs, policies and activities of minority, low-income and tribal communities.
- Develop an environmental justice strategy that lists programs, policies, planning and public participation processes, enforcement and/or rulemakings, related to human health of the environment that could be revised to (1) promote enforcement of all heath and environmental statutes in areas with minority populations and low-income populations; (2) ensure greater public participation; (3) improve research and data collection relating to the health of an environment of minority populations and low-income populations; and (4) identify patterns of consumption of natural resources among minority populations.
- Include the Strategy, where appropriate, a timetable for undertaking identified revisions and consideration of economic and social implications of the revisions.
Environmental Justice Resource Links
2018 Department of the Interior/Bureau NEPA Guidance Information
» Proposed NEPA Categorical Exclusions
» EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council
» Rural EJ Resources Collection
» Department Manual (DM) chapter: 525 DM 1, Environmental Justice Implementation Policy - January 2017
» Promising Practices for EJ Methodologies in NEPA Review - March 2016
» Federal interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG)
Kim Lambert, Environmental Justice Outreach Specialist, Environmental Justice