Environmental Justice calls for fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. The guiding principle of Environmental Justice is ensuring that no populations bears a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal and commercial operations, or from the execution of Federal, state and local laws, regulations and policies. Meaningful involvement requires effective access to decision-makers for all, and the ability in all communities to make informed decisions and take positive actions to produce environmental justice for themselves.
Environmental Justice demands that that those who have historically been excluded from environmental decision-making, traditionally minority, low-income and tribal communities, have the same access to environmental decision-makers, decision-making processes and the ability to make reasoned contributions to decisions.
Here's some of the work that our office has done to continually work towards Environmental Justice:
- Title VI Reviews- The Office of Civil Rights is responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance with Title VI, investigating Title VI-related complaints, and providing technical assistance to recipients of departmental financial assistance. In FY 10, The Office of Civil Rights conducted over 120 pre award reviews related to departmental financial assistance. More information about Title VI Reviews, including how to file a complaint, can be found here.
- Relationship Building within Indian Country - The United States has a unique legal and political relationship with Indian tribal governments that has developed over the entire course of dealings between these entities through application of the Constitution of the United States, treaties, statutes, Executive Orders, and judicial decisions. Fulfilling the Federal Government’s obligation to Indian Nations and Alaska Natives requires a government-to-government relationship of interaction and cooperation. Our staff has been involved in numerous consultation sessions held in cooperation with other offices in recent years. These consultation sessions are meant to strengthen the Department’s outreach efforts to tribal constituencies and further the mandates of Energy Department Order 144.1, American Indian Tribal Government Interactions & Policy, and Executive Order 13175 on Tribal consultation. Additionally, our office participates in a White House Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice and has participated in tribal listening sessions held by this group.
- Educating Tribal Communities on Departmental Policy - Our staff co-hosted a breakout session on Education and Economic Development Opportunities during the 2011 Department of Energy Tribal Summit, to provide guidance for tribally-owned small businesses, tribally-owned financial institutions, tribal colleges and universities, and others seeking to work with our office. Additionally, our office staff have presented on contracting opportunities for Tribally-owned businesses and Alaska Native Corporations, most recently at RES 2012.
- Bank Deposit Financial Assistance Program- The Energy Department's Bank Deposit Financial Assistance Program was developed for the purpose of strengthening and expanding the Nation’s minority and women-owned enterprise. The Energy Department purchases Certificates of Deposit from minority financial institutions which desire to participate in the Program. The institutions in turn use principal funds obtained from the Certificates of Deposit to provide loans to individuals and small businesses in their communities. Currently, there are 90 minority and women-owned financial institutions participating in the Energy Department’s Bank Deposit Financial Assistance Program. The Energy Department’s funds have been a critical source of capital since June of 1979, when it first participated in the Department of Treasury’s Minority Bank Deposit Program and purchased over $195 million Certificates of Deposits. In 2001, the Department provided $4.5 million to help victims of Tropical Storm Allison recover.
- Commitment to Gulf Coast Initiatives - Our office represents the department on the Deepwater Horizon Integrated Services Team for Gulf Coast activities. In FY 10 we joined an intra-agency working group with subject matter experts in energy efficiency, renewable energy and other beneficial program offices for response to Gulf Coast initiatives.
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities – In FY 2010, the Energy Department provided $27.4 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. For example, the Department provided $2.7 million to Allen University for scientific education and research for undergraduate and high school students, and $2.0 million to Morehouse College to enhance their Science and Mathematics instruction and increase opportunities to undergraduate students to perform research in these disciplines.
- Hispanic Serving Institutions – In FY 2010, the Department provided $38.2 million to Hispanic Serving Institutions. For example, the Department provided $12.0 million to Texas State Technical College-Harlingen Campus for research and development activities for undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
- Tribal Colleges and Universities – In 2011, the Energy Department entered into a pilot program with the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to fund a research and education initiative - learn more about that program here. In FY 2010, $275,000 was provided to Tribal Colleges and Universities. $175,000 went to Northern Arizona University to recruit Native American engineering students for internships around the NNSA complex and to conduct workshops for middle and high school Native American students to stimulate interest in college and the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.
- Minority Educational Institution Student Partnership Program (MEISPP) – From 2007 to 2010, the MEISPP provided 246 intern opportunities for students with our Headquarters, field sites, National Laboratories, and Power Administrations. An interagency agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency expanded the MEISPP to provide additional opportunities for students to gain valuable work experience at Federal agencies and National field sites. In 2011, students representing colleges and universities such as the University of Maryland - Eastern Shore, Spelman College, University of Puerto Rick - Mayaguez, and Howard University participated in the MEISPP.