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Last Updated: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 8:06 AM

Chapter 25 - Environmental Justice

WHAT DOES THE TOPIC INCLUDE?

This chapter includes a basic overview of the principles of environmental justice and how they are incorporated into the environmental process. Definitions of minority and low-income populations, and other terms related to environmental justice are presented. Laws, regulations and guidance pertaining to environmental justice are also included within this chapter.

SUBJECT MATTER DECISION TREE

LAWS, REGULATIONS AND GUIDANCE

Federal Law

State Law

Guidance

Policy Memos

  • Title VI Policy Statement
  • Caltrans Director's Policy (DP-28): Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Related Statutes

DEFINITION OF RESOURCES OR SUBJECT

Environmental Justice in terms of transportation projects can be defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income, from the early stages of transportation planning and investment decision making through construction, operations and maintenance. As defined by SB 115, environmental justice is "the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and policies."

Environmental Justice has its origins with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which states "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." In 1994 Executive Order 12898 was issued and gave a renewed emphasis to Title VI and added low-income populations to those protected by the principles of environmental justice.

There are three fundamental principles at the core of environmental justice as expressed in the FHWA’s Transportation & Environmental Justice Case Studies publication and the FHWA Environmental Justice Website:

  • 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 populations.

Minority and low-income populations as they apply to environmental justice are defined as:

  • Black - a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
  • Hispanic - a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
  • Asian American - a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands.
  • American Indian and Alaskan Native - a person having origins in any of the original people of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or recognition.
  • Low-Income - a person whose household income (or, in the case a community or group, whose median household income) is at or below the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines.

The poverty guidelines can be found at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services web site. This link exits the SER website.

IDENTIFICATION OF REGULATIONS

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act provides one of the principle legal underpinnings for environmental justice. It states that “No person shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Title VI prohibits recipients of Federal funds from actions that reflect “intentional discrimination” or that exhibit “adverse disparate impact discrimination” on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin.

The Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 amended Title VI so that recipients of Federal aid must comply with the non-discriminatory requirements in all their activities, not just the programs and activities that directly receive Federal support. That is, government agencies that receive any federal funds must avoid discriminatory impacts not only when setting policy for federally funded programs, but also for programs that are entirely state or locally funded.

Environmental justice was first identified as a national policy in 1994 when President Clinton signed Executive Order 12898 Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. This 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. E.O. 12898 applies to a wider population than Title VI, which does not cover low-income non-minority populations.

In April 1997, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued the Order to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations. As the U.S. DOT’s response to Executive Order 12898, it generally describes the process for incorporating environmental justice principles into DOT programs, policies and activities. The objective of the Order is to ensure that the interests and well being of minority populations and low-income populations are considered and addressed during transportation decision making, and to achieve this by working within the existing statutory and regulatory requirements. Like E.O. 12898, the DOT Order does not create a new set of requirements for state and local agencies, but is intended to reinforce considerations already embodied in existing law, such as NEPA and Title VI. The Order states that DOT will not carry out any programs, policies or activities that will have a disproportionately high and adverse effect on minority populations or low-income populations unless “further mitigation measures or alternatives that would avoid or reduce the disproportionately high and adverse effect are not practicable.”

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is the nation’s core environmental statute. Because environmental justice is often addressed under NEPA processes, it is important for transportation professionals to understand NEPA. NEPA requires that: for every “major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment,” the responsible federal agency must evaluate the environmental impacts of that action. This applies to projects receiving federal funding as well as projects that require any type of federal permit approval. DOT and FHWA Orders identify NEPA as an existing requirement, through which environmental justice should be considered for transportation projects with federal involvement, although the NEPA statute does not specify how an EA or EIS should address environmental justice impacts. However, recent federal documents provide guidance for public agencies considering environmental justice under NEPA. See Laws, Regulations and Guidance section of this chapter.

INTERAGENCY COORDINATION

There are no permits issued by regulatory agencies in terms of environmental justice considerations. However communication and coordination with neighborhood groups and community based organizations existing in or near the project area is recommended to obtain a better understanding of any potential environmental justice concerns that might exist in the project area. Local Planning Departments will have information on past project history for an area as well as information on any existing community based organizations, committees or associations that are active in the area.

Senate Bill 115 (Solis) (Government Code Section 65040.12(c)) established the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) as the coordinating agency in state government for environmental justice programs.

DISCUSSION POINTS

In order to fully integrate the goals and requirements of environmental justice into a project level NEPA/CEQA review, the following discussion points must be considered and the relevant information must be included as part of the environmental document. For more information refer to the environmental justice portion of the appropriate annotated outline (on the Forms and Templates page of the SER).

  • Does the project area contain higher than average concentrations of traditionally under-served groups when compared to the area surrounding the project area or the city or county as a whole?
    • The U.S. Census provides median income, housing and ethnic information to the "block" level. This information, when compared to the city or county population demographics can assist in identifying higher than average concentrations of minority or low-income populations.
    • For purposes of environmental justice, minority is defined as a person or persons belonging to one or more of the following groups:
      1. Black - a person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.
      2. Hispanic - a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.
      3. Asian American - a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, or the Pacific Islands.
      4. American Indian and Alaskan Native - a person having origins in any of the original people of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or recognition.
      5. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander- a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
    • Median income information from the census can assist in identifying low-income populations. Low-income is defined based on the Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines. This figure is published in the form of yearly income for a family of four. The current poverty guideline can be found on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Website. This link exits the SER website.
  • Does the project area have a history of other projects or actions that may have had disproportionately high or adverse impacts on the local residents?
    • Information on past projects in the project area can be obtained from several sources. Past transportation project data can be obtained from Caltrans project files or from local MPOs or RTPAs. City or county planning agencies can provide information on past non-transportation related projects in the project area.
  • Are the areas in which these populations are located subject to disproportionate impacts?
    1. The adverse impacts on the overall population and on minority and low-income populations or communities in particular, need to be addressed. Examples of potential topics: air, noise, water pollution, hazardous waste, aesthetic values, community cohesion, economic vitality, employment effects, displacements/relocations, farmlands, accessibility, traffic congestion, safety and construction impacts. For further information on disproportionate impacts please refer to: Federal Highway Administration Interim Guidance: Addressing Environmental Justice in Environmental Assessments/Environmental Impact Statements. (279KB)
  • Will the proposed project increase traffic in low-income and minority neighborhoods? If so, will the increase be greater than in non-minority or non low-income neighborhoods?
    • Traffic studies performed for the project can be used to identify traffic patterns and counts in relation to the minority or low-income communities identified within the project area.
  • Will minority owned businesses that serve a minority or low-income population be impacted by the project?
    • The Draft Relocation Impact Study (DRIS) will identify businesses that will be directly impacted by the proposed project. Further research will be required including field reviews to determine which of those businesses identified in the DRIS are minority owned. Businesses that will not be relocated but still will be impacted by the project (access during construction, removal of parking, etc.) should also be taken into consideration.
  • Will access from minority or low-income neighborhoods to various services or cultural destinations (church, parks, community center) be affected by the proposed project?
    • The community profile created for the community impact assessment should identify existing community facilities within the project area. Field reviews and discussions with community leaders and residents can be used to identify those facilities and services which cater to or are used by minority or low-income populations. Access issues can then be further analyzed for possible EJ impacts.
  • Will the project require displacement of any minority or low-income residences? If so, are they disproportionate?
    • The Draft Relocation Impact Study (DRIS) will identify residential relocations. Further research will be required including field reviews to determine which of those residences identified in the DRIS are minority or low-income owned or occupied.
  • Will the project result in proportional change of minority or low-income household in the area that will have access to transit services reduced?
    • Existing public transit routes can be mapped in relation to the identified minority or low-income populations within the project area. Impacts to those populations relating to route alterations or service changes caused by the project can then be identified and analyzed.
  • Are the benefits associated with the project equitable for all segments of society?
    • Just as potential impacts of a project are analyzed for disproportionality to minority or low-income populations, the benefits of a project should be studied to determine if all segments of society are receiving them equally. The benefits of the project are those identified in the purpose and need for the project and could include improved safety, reduced congestion, easier access, improved air quality, etc.

REPORT CONTENT AND REQUIRED/RECOMMENDED FORMAT

No technical reports are mandated by state or federal law. Although a technical report is not mandated by state or federal law, a discussion of the environmental justice analysis preformed for the project area should be included in the environmental document. The analysis should include demographic analysis to identify minority or low-income populations that may exist in the project area. If minority or low income populations are identified in the project area, project- area percentages of those populations should be compared to adjoining census tract, city or county percentages to determine the presence of high concentrations of these populations in the project area. This initial analysis will be a preliminary indicator to determine if a higher level of environmental justice analysis will be appropriate for the project. If environmental justice concerns are voiced by the affected community or can be reasonably anticipated by the project development team, a more detailed environmental justice analysis/discussion would also be appropriate for the environmental document. Caltrans has adopted the methodologies recommended by the Federal Highway Administration for environmental justice analysis. These methodologies can be found at: Federal Highway Administration Interim Guidance: Addressing Environmental Justice in Environmental Assessments/Environmental Impact Statements. (279KB)

For more information on report content and recommended format, please refer to the EIR/EIS Annotated Outline.

Please refer to the following resources for additional information regarding report content for environmental justice:

PREPARER QUALIFICATIONS

Most data collection and analysis can be carried out by persons without specialized training, although prior experience and an educational background in geography, social ecology, economics, sociology, or regional planning may be very helpful, particularly in complex situations.

TIMING OF STUDIES WITH THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESS

Environmental justice analysis should be conducted as part of the environmental process. If the early Project Development Team meetings indicate that there is the existence of high concentrations of minority or low income populations existing within the project area or substantial interest in the project from an environmental justice population within the community, it may be appropriate to prepare a separate specialized environmental justice technical report or background study.

TECHNICAL REPORT PROCESSING AND APPROVAL

The environmental justice analysis should be reviewed and approved by the Caltrans District Environmental Manager or Branch Chief. The analysis and findings should be summarized in the Draft Environmental Document. If necessary, a separate environmental justice technical report may be included as an appendix to the environmental document if environmental justice issues are among those prominent in the environmental document. A copy of this report should be retained in the project files.

INFORMATION NEEDED FOR PROJECT DELIVERY

Regional Transportation Plan

Information used in identifying potential environmental justice issues should be documented in the Environmental Impact Report prepared for the Regional Transportation Plan and serve as a building block in subsequent decision making and analysis.

A Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) requires the preparation of a CEQA environmental document, normally a program or master Environmental Impact Report. Caltrans encourages the MPO/RTPAs to include the following information, as appropriate, in the environmental document for the plan:

  • A general profile of the population characteristics in the corridor or study area;
  • Identification of areas of high concentrations of low-income and minority populations in the corridor or study area.
  • Description of public participation and community outreach efforts associated with the development of the Transportation Plan

Project Initiation Document

The “Guidelines for the Preparation of Project Study Reports” dated November 3, 1999, stipulate that PSRs and project study report equivalents contain an “inventory of environmental resources, identification of potential environmental issues and anticipated environmental processing type. Potential mitigation requirements and associated costs should also be identified."

For projects on the State Highway System, the following level of information is recommended to fulfill the requirements of the guidelines.

This information should be included in the Preliminary Environmental Assessment Report (PEAR) prepared in support of the Project Initiation Document (PID).

  • A general profile of the population characteristics in the corridor or study area;
  • Identification of areas of high concentrations of low-income and minority populations in the corridor or study area.

For projects off the State Highway System, complete the Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PES) form. The information required for the PES satisfies the environmental requirement for the PSR equivalent.

Draft Project Report

This information should be presented in the draft environmental document or used as supporting documentation for a Categorical Exemption, as appropriate.

  • Verification of all information from RTP stage & PID stage, and;
  • A general profile of the population characteristics in the corridor or study area;
  • Identification of areas of high concentrations of low-income and minority populations in the corridor or study area;
  • Identification of disproportionately high and adverse project impacts to minority and low-income populations;
  • Mitigation measures or project enhancements to offset any significant impacts to minority or low-income populations that can’t be avoided or minimized.

Project Report

This information should be presented in the final environmental document:

  • Verification of all information from previous stages;
  • Summary of identified environmental justice issues from the draft environmental document;
  • Mitigation measures for identified environmental justice issues.

PERMIT REQUIREMENTS

There are no permits required for environmental justice or related issues.

ACTIVITIES THAT MAY OCCUR DURING THE PROJECT DESIGN PHASE

Environmental justice activities that may occur during the design phase of the project would be the incorporation of any mitigation measures or project enhancements necessary to reduce or mitigate any environmental justice issues that have been identified in the project report.

ACTIVITIES THAT MAY OCCUR DURING THE CONSTRUCTION PHASE

Any mitigation measure designed to reduce construction related environmental justice issues or impacts that was recommended in the final environmental document may occur the construction phase of the project.

 


(Last content update: 08/12/2014: JH)