Environmental Justice and NEPA

CEQ Guidance Document on Environmental Justice under NEPA



On February 11, 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations." You can find the Executive Order here. The Executive Order makes it the responsibility of each Federal agency to

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 in the United States and its territories and possessions, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Commonwealth of the Mariana islands

Accompanying this order was a Presidential Memorandum stating that "each Federal agency shall analyze the environmental effects, including human health, economic and social effects, of Federal actions, including effects on minority communities and low-income communities, when such analysis is required by the [National Environmental Policy Act]. The Presidential Memorandum and Executive Order are here. The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) responded to this order by issuing guidance for agencies on how to address environmental justice under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). You can find this guidance here.

The NEPA process holds the unique advantage of encouraging early public involvement in the discussion of proposals for Federal actions, thereby providing an opportunity to identify, prevent, and mitigate disproportionately high and adverse impacts.

The Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (EJ IWG) site, including links to agency sites and the government-wide EJ directory, is available here. Several Federal agencies having developed general environmental justice resources as well as materials to assist their agency's consideration of environmental justice issues when preparing their NEPA environmental reviews (for example: guidance, handbooks, websites, etc.). Some agencies rely on department-wide environmental justice policies, other agencies have created agency-specific guidance documents that outline steps to work towards environmental justice in the NEPA process, and some agencies use a combination of broader and agency-specific NEPA procedures and guidance. Several agencies have also developed websites devoted specifically to environmental justice issues.