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Policy Overview

Section 1

1.0 Policy Overview

1.1 Purpose and Framework of the Interim Policy Statement
1.2 Scope of the Interim Policy Statement
1.3 Environmental Justice Terms and Definitions
1.4 The Environmental Justice Analysis
1.5 Program Guidelines
1.6 Conclusion
Footnotes

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1.0 POLICY OVERVIEW

1.1 Purpose and Framework of the Interim Policy
The mission of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment -- air, water, and land -- upon which life depends. As part of its mission, EPA's purpose is to ensure that:

EPA Region 2 is committed to providing equal protection to all communities we serve. Accordingly, Region 2 is incorporating Environmental Justice (EJ) in its technical and management decisions and actions. In accordance with the President's Executive Order 12898 (" EO")1, this Region 2 Interim Environmental Justice Policy (Interim Policy) has been developed to assist in the achievement of this goal.

It is the Region's intent to use the Interim Policy to ensure that we can identify, target, and be responsive to those communities that experience disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental burdens. Further, the Region is committed to ensuring that all the communities and stakeholders we serve have environmental protection and liveable, sustainable communities.

The Region believed it was essential for the Region to solicit input from our stakeholders in the development of this policy. In this regard, the initial draft Interim Policy was subjected to internal/external peer review and public comment. Further, input from those reviews has been used to shape this revised policy.

It is not Region 2's intention to pre-designate environmental justice communities or areas. Instead, the Region intends to respond to community concerns and to be able to identify communities where EJ concerns may arise (i.e., potential EJ communities or areas) to ensure that our core program activities are resulting in equitable treatment. Therefore, it is essential for Regional managers and staff to understand and become aware of the situations and instances in which environmental justice issues may arise. In this regard, it is important to note that environmental justice issues often surface in a multi-media, multi-source and socio-economic context or scenario as opposed to a single media scenario. For instance, it is more the exception than the norm to have an environmental justice complaint or issue that is limited to a single problem, such as a community's drinking water. In this regard, the Interim Policy provides for analyses of both single and multi-media issues.

The following Guiding Principles and Concepts have served to shape the Region's Environmental Justice Program and initiatives:

In addition to this interim policy, EPA's Office of Environmental Justice is working towards the development of a national Environmental Justice guidance which may supersede or supplement this policy. Until, the Agency issues final guidance in this area, the Region believes the Interim Policy will enable our staff to more fairly and effectively carry out Region 2's programs and initiatives consistent with the EO. Lastly, the Region considers this Interim Policy to be a "living document," and as such, we will periodically gauge the scope of the document based on the progress of its implementation.

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1.2 Scope of the Interim Policy

This Interim Policy delineates the approach and methodology Region 2 will use to evaluate and assess environmental justice (EJ) communities and their concerns. Specifically, the Interim Policy includes the Region's Environmental Justice Policy Statement and our guidance with respect to the following areas: Permitting, Enforcement, Community Involvement, and the Superfund program. Throughout the development of this Interim Policy, it has been the Region's expectation that such guidelines will provide the steps and tools Regional managers and staff can utilize toward conducting EJ analyses to determine potential and actual EJ communities or areas. As the Region proceeds along in the implementation of this Interim Policy, further considerations may be given to broaden the scope to include additional program guidance.

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1.3 Environmental Justice Terms and Definitions

What is Environmental Justice? The Office of Environmental Justice in EPA

Headquarters (OEJ) has issued the following interim EJ definition:

Environmental Justice is 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 a racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic 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.2

The EO specifically addresses situations where minority or low-income communities bear a disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental burden. In addition, it directs federal agencies to take steps to prevent, as a result of federal programs, policies, and activities, "disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects...on minority populations and low-income populations."

This Interim Policy uses terms3 and definitions that may not be the preferred usage or terminology for many of our stakeholders, but which the Region uses in order to be consistent with other federal government agencies and the EO. In addition, Region 2 uses the terms "EJ Area" or "EJ Community" interchangeably to describe a community that satisfies the intent of the EO. Also, the Region uses the term "Community of Concern (COC)" to refer to a community that is the subject of an EJ analysis. For a listing of the most commonly used terms (including definitions) in this Interim Policy, refer to Appendix 3 (Glossary of Terms).

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1.4 The Environmental Justice Analysis

The Guidelines for Conducting Environmental Justice Analyses (Section 2.0 of the Interim Policy) describes a process for conducting consistent evaluations of potential and actual environmental justice communities. This process includes two steps:

The guidelines advance the concept of an environmental load profile (ELP), and the use of a geographic information system (GIS)-based demographic mapping tool to conduct site-specific EJ analyses. The GIS provides for the comparison of three factors between the COC and a statistical reference area: their respective levels of (1) minority representation, (2) low-income representation, and (3) environmental burden. Statistical criteria offer guidance for determining whether the levels of minority or low-income residents and the environmental burden are significantly greater and disproportionately high and adverse in the COC. The environmental load profile (ELP) serves as a representation of the environmental burden in the COC. It also provides a consistent basis for comparison of the COC to the statistical reference area.

The Procedure (Section 2.2) provides the methodology for identifying the COC, evaluating whether it is a minority and/or low income community, and assessing whether its environmental burden is disproportionately high and adverse. In general, at the conclusion of an EJ analysis, a decision document4 will be generated which includes the following:

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1.5 Program Guidelines

The Guidelines were created to provide Region 2 management and staff with a systematic and consistent approach when an EJ area evaluation is made, or where initial screening indicates the potential for an EJ area identification. The Guidelines articulate responsive measures for the Region's activities of permitting, enforcement, community involvement, and the Superfund program.

It is important to note that the identification of a disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effect on a minority population or low-income population does not preclude a proposed agency action from going forward. Rather, at a minimum, the identification of such an effect should heighten the Region's attention to increased community awareness and communication, alternative mitigation strategies, monitoring needs, and preferences expressed by the affected community.

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1.6 Conclusion

Region 2 believes that a robust EJ program should result in early resolution of EJ concerns in affected communities and fewer formal administrative Title VI5 complaints being filed. It is also the Region's goal that the implementation of this policy will result in equal environmental protection and liveable, sustainable communities.

Footnotes

  1. Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations," issued by President William J. Clinton on February 11, 1994.
  2. Definition of Environmental Justice used in the EPA Office of Federal Activities "Guidance for Incorporating Environmental Justice Concerns in EPA's NEPA Compliance Analysis," (April 1998, p. 2).
  3. This policy uses the term "minority" rather than "people of color" in order to be consistent with the Executive Order, but the Region is mindful and sensitive to many communities' desire to be identified as "people of color." In addition, the policy uses the term "American Indian" in referring to all indigenous populations within the Region, regardless of their affiliation with a federally-recognized Tribe. However, EPA staff recognize various terminology preferences and will strive to respect and utilize appropriate language on a case-by-case basis.
  4. It is recognized that not all issues will require a full analysis to address the concerns of the community. In those instances, a letter or memorandum may suffice to adequately document the Region's actions.
  5. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

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