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Environmental Justice - State Laws and Policy

Oregon’s 2008 environmental justice law

Oregon’s environmental justice law, established in 2008, requires state natural resource agencies – including DEQ and 13 other agencies – to follow prescribed steps to provide greater public participation and ensure involvement of people who may be affected by agency actions. Senate Bill 420, which created the law, also created an Environmental Justice Task Force.
The Task Force, consisting of 12 members appointed by the governor, is charged with:
  • Advising the Governor on environmental justice issues.
  • Advising natural resource agencies on environmental justice issues, including community concerns and public participation processes.
  • Identifying, in cooperation with natural resource agencies, minority and low-income communities that may be affected by the agencies environmental decisions.
  • Meeting with environmental justice communities and making recommendations to the Governor about concerns raised by these communities.
  • Defining environmental justice issues in the Oregon.
The law further directs the natural resources agencies to take the following actions to ensure greater public participation:
In determining 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 affected by decisions stemming from the hearings.
  • Hold public outreach activities in the communities that will be affected by decisions of the agency.
  • Create a citizen advocate position responsible for encouraging public participation, ensuring that the agency considers environmental justice issues, and informing the agency of the effect of its decisions on communities traditionally under-represented in public processes.
Lastly, the law requires natural resource agency directors, and other agency directors as the governor may designate, to report annually to the Environmental Justice Task Force and governor on agencies’ efforts to address environmental justice issues, increase public participation of individuals and communities affected by agencies’ decisions, determine the effect of the agencies’ decisions on traditionally under-represented communities, and improve plans to further the progress of environmental justice in Oregon.

DEQ’s environmental justice policy

Environmental Justice Policy adopted in 1997, includes principles for making environmental equity inherent in the way the agency does business and implementation measures that continue to guide DEQ’s work today.