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Environmental Justice

Title VI and Environmental Justice

Overview

"Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination." — President John F. Kennedy, 1963

On February 11, 1994, Executive Order 12898 was issued to direct Federal agencies to incorporate achieving environmental justice into their mission. Accompanying that Executive Order was a Presidential Memorandum stating, in part,

In accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, each Federal agency shall ensure that all programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance that affect human health or the environment do not directly, or through contractual or other arrangements, use criteria, methods, or practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

With that directive in mind, in August 2011 the Environmental Justice IWG established a Title VI Committee to address the intersection of agencies' environmental justice efforts with their Title VI enforcement and compliance responsibilities.

How are EJ and Title VI Different?

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance (states, grantees, etc.) from discriminating based on race, color, or national origin in any program or activity.

Executive Order 12898, on the other hand, directs federal agencies to identify and address, as appropriate, disproportionally high adverse human health and environmental effects of their programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.

However, a Title VI civil rights complaint may raise environmental justice issues when challenging a recipient's activity. For instance, if a state agency receives funds from EPA to run a clean air program, that state recipient is legally prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color or national origin under Title VI when engaging in clean air enforcement activities.

The EPA, in complying with Executive Order 12898, can also ensure the programs it funds consider disproportionately high adverse human health and environmental effects on minority and low income populations.

For more information of the differences and similarities, see the EJ and Title VI comparison chart.

Title VI

  1. Title VI prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance (e.g., states, universities, local governments) from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin in their programs or activities.
  2. Title VI is a federal law that applies to federal financial assistance recipients (i.e., persons or entities that receive EPA financial assistance) and not to EPA itself as the Executive Order does.
  3. Title VI allows persons to file administrative complaints with the federal departments and agencies that provide financial assistance alleging discrimination based on race, color, or national origin by recipients of federal funds.
  4. Under Title VI, EPA has a responsibility to ensure that its funds are not being used to subsidize discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. This prohibition against discrimination under Title VI has been a statutory mandate since 1964 and EPA has had Title VI regulations since 1973.
  5. EPA's Office of Civil Rights is responsible for the Agency's administration of Title VI, including investigation of such complaints.