Environmental justice means the equal protection from environmental and health risks, fair treatment and meaningful involvement in decision making of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, income or other identifies with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies that affect the environment in which people live, work, learn, and practice spirituality and culture.
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. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys:
- The same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and
- Equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
Oregon environmental justice
In 2022, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 4077 that renamed and restructured the existing Environmental Justice Task Force (EJTF) as the Environmental Justice Council (EJC). The EJC, established within the Office of the Governor, is a 13-member statewide council responsible to advise the Governor and state natural resource agencies on environmental justice (EJ) issues.
The statute directs the council to: (a) Advise and provide a biannual report to the Governor on environmental justice issues; (b) Advise natural resource agencies on environmental justice issues, including community concerns and public participation processes; (c) Identify, in cooperation with natural resource agencies, environmental justice communities; (d) Meet with environmental justice communities and make recommendations to the Governor regarding concerns raised by these communities; (e) Define environmental justice issues in the state; and (f) Upon the request of a natural resource agency, provide consultation and review of a natural resource agency’s proposed administrative rules under ORS 183.333.
The Environmental Justice Council, in consultation with natural resource agencies, shall identify in a report to the Governor and, in the manner required in ORS 192.245, the Legislative Assembly:
- (a) Guidance for state agencies regarding how to use the environmental justice mapping tool when adopting rules, policies or guidelines. The guidance must be flexible to accommodate differences in agency directives.
- (b) Best practices for increasing public participation and engagement in policy decisions by providing meaningful involvement.
- (c) Recommendations on how to best meaningfully consult environmental justice communities.
- (d) Recommendations for establishing measurable goals for reducing environmental disparities across Oregon and ways in which state agencies may focus their work toward meeting those goals.
- (e) Guidelines for identifying environmental justice communities, including guidelines for further defining environmental justice communities developed from the inclusive community engagement process described in section 12 of this 2022 Act.
- (f) Guidelines for evaluating socioeconomic benefits and burdens to environmental justice communities.
Additionally, 182.545 states that 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:
- (1) In making a determination whether and how to act, consider the effects of the action on environmental justice issues.
- (2) 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
- (3) Engage in public outreach activities in the communities that will be affected by decisions of the agency.
- (4) Create a public advocate position that is responsible for:
- (a) Encouraging public participation;
- (b) Ensuring that the agency considers environmental justice issues; and
- (c) Informing the agency of the effect of its decisions on environmental justice communities.
Environmental Justice Mapping Tool
HB 4077 additionally created a pathway to create an environmental justice mapping tool to provide geospatial information about EJ impacts and to develop guidance for state agencies when adopting rules and policies. Once established, natural resource agencies may use the environmental justice mapping tool to:
- (a) Identify environmental justice communities affected by agency programs;
- (b) Conduct outreach and engagement activities with environmental justice communities to inform the development, adoption, implementation or enforcement of environmental laws, administrative rules or agency policies;
- (c) Establish measurable goals for reducing environmental health disparities within agency programs; and
- (d) Prioritize agency funding to help address identified impacts on environmental justice communities.
The environmental justice mapping tool may inform agency policies and programs as they relate to community engagement and outreach, investments and funding and impacts to environmental justice communities, and may be a source of information to the public. The mapping tool is informational only and may not be used in agency decision making on individual permits or applications unless otherwise required by federal or state law.
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 identify 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
EPA environmental justice information
Provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. EPA environmental justice
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