Environmental Justice and Community Involvement Guidelines
- EPA National EJ Page
- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
- New York Department of Environmental Conservation
- Center for Disease Control (CDC)
- EJ Geographic Assessment Tool
- Internet Mapping Tools
- Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)
- Enforcement and Compliance History Online
Environmental Justice Coordinator
Environmental Justice Assistant
These Guidelines provide Regional program managers and staff with guidance for conducting effective and early outreach, and to outline steps that they can take to determine the appropriate level and type of outreach that will provide communities with environmental justice concerns the opportunity to have input into EPA's work and decision-making processes. Regional staff should keep in mind that community involvement activities will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the issues involved and the level of community interest.
The degree to which the outreach steps outlined below are most appropriate will correspond to those specific situations in which EPA has determined enhanced community outreach is necessary.
Developing a relationship with the concerned and/or affected community's organizations and residents is essential for enhanced public participation. Stakeholders may include, but are not limited to:
- Community and neighborhood groups;
- Community service organizations (health, welfare and others);
- Environmental organizations;
- Local industry and business (including the individual employees);
- Religious communities;
- Not-for-profits and non-governmental organizations; and
- Government agencies (federal, state, county, local and tribal).
Based on the level of community interest and the complexity of the concerns, Region 2 staff may determine that the development of a Community Involvement Plan (CIP) is appropriate. The CIP should outline the community's concerns, strategies to address those concerns, and planned community involvement activities. The CIP should also include:
- A list of methods identified by the community as effective ways to share information (see suggested methods listed below);
- Locations identified as convenient for public information sessions;
- Location for an information repository; and
- List of local media outlets used by the community.
The CIP should be provided to affected stakeholders for review to ensure that their concerns are properly understood and that the involvement activities are responsively designed.
Regional staff should always consult with the community to determine the most effective and appropriate methods for informing and receiving input from the community. Some of these methods may include:
Public Meetings and Availability Sessions - A public meeting is a more formal meeting in a large group setting with an outlined agenda and presentations. An availability session is an informal meeting, which provides opportunities for community representatives to question federal representatives and provide input on a one-on-one basis. In addition, obtaining time on the agendas of regularly scheduled neighborhood meetings is recommended. Here are some tips for a successful community meeting:
- Provide sufficient advance notice of meeting dates through a notification process that the community identifies as most effective;
- Host meetings in neutral and easily assessable locations at convenient dates/times;
- Create an informal and physically comfortable environment conducive to open discussion;
- Give the community an opportunity to have input into the agenda;
- Do a run through of any presentations planned by EPA staff to ensure that the information conveyed is in understandable, non-technical terms with the appropriate visual aids. In particular, explain and/or minimize the use of acronyms; and
- Bring posters, maps and other visuals that may help the community better understand specific environmental or technical issues.
Communication Materials - Some effective materials and methods for sharing information with the community are:
- Direct mailings of fact sheets or community updates (a mailing list should be developed);
- Distribution of materials to and through community centers and local government offices and groups;
- Local newspaper notices (preferably appearing on a regular news page, not in the legal/public notice section);
- Press releases or public service announcements issued to local media; and
- Region 2 Communication Division's Public Outreach Branch will work with regional staff to draft press materials.
Technical Assistance Workshops - Technical seminars and training workshops can be effective mechanisms to build a community's capacity to better understand the technical and complex issues surrounding their concerns, the roles the various government agencies, and the policies that may impact those issues. Application assistance workshops and one-on-one application assistance are also available for communities with EJ concerns.
Another key resource for guidance on how to effectively involve communities is The NEJAC Model Plan for Public Participation [PDF 464 KB, 20 pp] (February, 2000) which was developed in November 1996 by the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), EPA's federal advisory committee on Environmental Justice matters. The plan was developed to provide the Agency with guidance on enhancing public participation.