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 population 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.
With meaningful involvement in mind, DOE’s environmental justice program conducts a number of activities for stakeholders and host communities near our sites. Our intent with these activities can be described as follows: To give our stakeholders the opportunities to participate in DOE decision making to the greatest degree possible, to give our stakeholders the tools to participate in DOE decision making and to give our host communities technical assistance to help them strengthen their economies to the greatest extent possible.
Examples of such community outreach efforts include the Site-Specific Community Advisory Boards, where stakeholders are able to actively participate in DOE EM cleanup decisions, and the National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program, where stakeholders annually gather to exchange ideas and approaches to achieve environmental justice.
The Department is committed to ensure that the principles of EJ are applied to all the Department’s programs, policies, and activities. In order to ensure that DOE staff and contractors are knowledgeable about environmental justice and are implementing EJ principles in the work that they do, DOE staff and contractors are required to take a one-hour online training. The training helps staff build capacity to be able to identify and address possible EJ issues.
On August 4, 2011, the Department joined 16 other executive branch agencies in signing a Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice (MOU). This MOU is an important step in furthering the Administration’s commitment to ensuring healthy communities for all Americans. The MOU advances federal agency responsibilities under EO 12898. Specific new areas of focus include strengthening EJ efforts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
As part of the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice (IWG/EJ), the Department works with other Federal agencies to address environmental justice concerns across the nation.