Environmental justice works towards ensuring all people enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to maintain a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
Environmental justice (EJ) 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 no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies.
- Meaningful involvement means:
- People have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health.
- The public's contribution can influence the regulatory agency's decision.
- Community concerns will be considered in the decision-making process.
- Decision makers will seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected.
Oregon environmental justice
In 2007, SB 420 established Oregon’s Environmental Justice Task Force (EJTF) to advise the Governor and state natural resource agencies on environmental justice concerns. The 12-member Task Force meets with environmental justice (EJ) communities across the state, reports directly to the Governor about environmental justice concerns those communities are facing, and works with agencies to address those concerns while meeting EJ goals. (See ORS 182.538; 182.542; 182.545; 182.550)
ORS 182.542 establishes that the Environmental Justice Task Force shall:
- Advise the Governor on environmental justice issues.
- Advise natural resource agencies on environmental justice issues, including community concerns and public participation processes.
- Identify, in cooperation with natural resource agencies, minority and low-income communities that may be affected by environmental decisions made by the agencies.
- Meet with environmental justice communities and make recommendations to the Governor regarding concerns raised by these communities.
- Define environmental justice issues in the state.
Additionally, the law requires state natural resources agencies (see ORS 182.545) address environmental justice issues as part of standard operations and report directly to the Governor on its progress. In order to provide greater public participation and to ensure that all persons affected by decisions of the natural resource agencies have a voice in those decisions, each natural resource agency shall:
- In making a determination whether and how to act, consider the effects of the action on environmental justice issues.
- Hold hearings at times and in locations that are convenient for people in the communities that will be affected by the decisions stemming from the hearings.
- Engage in public outreach activities in the communities that will be affected by decisions of the agency.
- Create a citizen advocate position that is responsible for:
- Encouraging public participation.
- Ensuring that the agency considers environmental justice issues.
- Informing the agency of the effect of its decisions on communities traditionally underrepresented in public processes.
Oregon Department of Agriculture
The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is committed to address environmental justice issues and promote public participation efforts related to the agency. ODA actively participates in the EJTF meetings to report agency related environmental justice (EJ) activities and inform the agency of EJ issues.
To learn more about ODA’s Environmental Justice work, see ODA's annual reports.
Environmental justice: Best practices for Oregon’s natural resource agencies
Created by Oregon’s Environmental Justice Task Force to provide specific tools and approaches to better identify potential disparate impacts and engage in intentional, targeted outreach to all stakeholders to ensure equitable outcomes and equal opportunity for meaningful participation. Environmental justice best practices handbook
ODA uses the EJScreen that EPA developed to assist in finding potential environmental justice communities in Oregon. This mapping and screening tool is based on nationally consistent data that combines environmental and demographic indicators in maps and reports. EPA's environmental justice screening and mapping tool
The EJ 2020 Action Agenda
EPA's strategic plan for advancing environmental justice from the years 2016-2020, plays an integral part in fulfilling the agency’s mission by focusing our attention on the environmental and public health issues and challenges confronting the nation’s minority, low-income, tribal and indigenous populations. EPA environmental justice strategic plan