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Environmental Justice

Recent Developments

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Listed below are recent developments pertinent to environmental justice from the past six months.  If you would like to suggest a recent development on this topic, please submit a short description to AASHTO (including any pertinent links) on the Share Info with AASHTO form.

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Climate Group Developing an Equitable Adaptation Toolkit

The Georgetown Climate Center has announced work on developing a toolkit to help public agencies and policymakers build social and economic equity into climate resilience planning. The Equitable Adaptation Toolkit will feature best practices and substantive policy solutions for achieving equitable outcomes through city resilience initiatives to provide examples that communities and community-based organizations can use. It also will provide case study examples of planning initiatives, legal, and policy solutions that have been advanced through community planning, and best practice examples. The toolkit is due for release in 2020. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-1-19)

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EPA Launches Environmental Justice Training for States

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a national environmental justice training program. The program consists of five training webinars, which will be accessible through a publicly available website, aimed at building capacity in the states to integrate environmental justice into decision making and develop environmental justice knowledge and expertise. Planned topics include identifying and prioritizing environmentally impacted and vulnerable communities, enhancing community involvement in the regulatory process, using an area-wide planning approach to promote equitable development, and applying EJ to state environmental impact assessments. In addition, the EPA Regions will conduct training for their respective states. For more information, link to the announcement. (3-15-19)

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FHWA Issues Two EJ State of the Practice Reports

The Federal Highway Administration has issued two new reviews of the state of the practice concerning environmental justice in highway programs. Environmental Justice Analysis in Transportation Planning and Programming: State of the Practice describes how state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations are considering and addressing environmental justice concerns, based on a review of all 52 DOTs and a sample of 100 MPOs. The report addresses commonly applied techniques and new EJ approaches, including identifying and engaging with EJ populations; understanding the needs of EJ populations; assessing the benefits and costs of proposed plans; determining disproportionately high and adverse effects on EJ populations; and strategies to address such effects. Addressing Changing Demographics in Environmental Justice Analysis: State of the Practice documents how MPOs and DOTs are adapting EJ analysis to understand communities undergoing rapid demographic change. The report discusses trends in the size and location of low-income and minority households. The report also highlights strategies for addressing changing demographics in EJ analysis and provides five case studies. (3-21-19)

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Study Describes Use of Zoning, Land Use Policies for Environmental Justice

A report from the Tishman Environment and Design Center describes ways communities are using local zoning and land-use policies to address environmental justice concerns. The report, Local Policies for Environmental Justice: A National Scan, compiles 40 policies from across the U.S. Types of policies include bans on specific types of facilities, incorporation of environmental justice goals into municipal activities, and application of environmental review processes to new or expanded developments. Other policy types include proactive planning targeted at future development, targeted land use measures that address sources of pollution, and enhanced public health codes. For more information, link to the report. (2-21-19)

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Webinar Outlines Process for Title VI Complaints

An overview of the process for filing complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act was provided in a webinar hosted by the Federal Highway Administration. The webinar covered laws, regulations, and guidance; information on filing and processing of complaints; and investigation processes and outcomes. For more information, link to the webinar and related resources. (2-5-19)

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NAACP Releases Toolkit on Environmental, Climate Equity

The Environmental and Climate Justice Program of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has issued a toolkit to help state, regional, and local officials address climate and environmental equity in the face of disasters. The toolkit is designed to assist people who are directly affected by adverse impacts, known as “frontline communities.” The toolkit provides resources for building equity into the four phases of emergency management: prevention and mitigation, preparedness and resilience building, response and relief, and recovery and redevelopment. The toolkit includes steps for taking action, risk assessment methods, advice for engaging government agencies, and checklists for planning. For more information, link to the toolkit. (Sept. 2018)

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FHWA Provides Guide, Case Studies on Community Impact Assessment

The Federal Highway Administration has updated its Quick Reference guide on community impact assessment (CIA) and has posted a series of best practice examples that demonstrate CIA approaches. CIA involves understanding the needs of communities and documenting potential social impacts with and without a proposed action. The guide outlines CIA processes, tools, and information sources. The best practices describe assessments conducted on projects in Rochester, N.Y.; Los Angeles; Winston-Salem, N.C.; Camden, N.J.; and Columbus, Ohio. For more information, link to the FHWA CIA web page. (6-12-18)

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Tool To Share State Public Involvement Resources Developed by FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration has developed a reference tool that compiles public involvement-related resources from state transportation agencies. The tool provides information and links to resources from each state transportation department including state long range transportation plans and statewide public involvement plans. The tool also provides links to resources on public involvement under the National Environmental Policy Act, plans for involving those with limited English proficiency, Title VI plans, environmental justice policy statements, and Native American tribal consultation resources. For more information, link to the tool. (5-22-18)

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EPA Issues Mobile Version of EJSCREEN Mapping Tool

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced the launch of a mobile version of its EJSCREEN environmental justice mapping tool. The tool allows users to analyze environmental and demographic factors related to environmental justice when developing programs or projects that could affect overburdened communities. The mobile version provides most of the same key functions and features as the full online version, but will enable use on a tablet or smart phone. For more information, link to the mobile version and EJSCREEN resources. (4-24-18)

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Webinar Describes Disproportionate EJ Impacts in Planning, Project Development

The AASHTO Environmental Justice Community of Practice (CoP) has posted a webinar on disproportionate environmental justice impacts in planning and project development. The webinar, held on March 15, 2018, included an overview of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and two case studies. The first case study described Wisconsin DOT’s nine-step environmental justice analysis process and its application to the U.S. 151 (Verona Road) Project. The second case study described an environmental justice legal challenge related to providing bus service in Beavercreek, Ohio. For more information, link to the webinar recording, presentation, and EJ CoP website. (3-16-18)

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FHWA Peer Exchange Illustrates Importance of Community Engagement

The Federal Highway Administration has released a report regarding the Rethinking I-94: MnDOT Peer Exchange, held Aug. 15-16, 2017. The peer exchange was held to help Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) with stakeholder engagement efforts in connection with Interstate 94 improvements. The exchange included discussion of the decision-making process, community involvement, and risks. Presentations from Ohio DOT and Massachusetts DOT also were conducted to illustrate successful project completion through public engagement. Key takeaways from the meeting include the importance of allowing creativity and the expression of local culture, use of visual tools, and maintaining open and continuous communication. For more information, link to the report. (December 2017)

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Webinar Recording: Meaningful Community Engagement

A recording of AASHTO's Environmental Justice Community of Practice (CoP) Nov. 17 webinar, Meaningful Community Engagement. The webinar discussed examples of resources, case studies, and successful processes used to increase the quantity and quality of community engagement from DOTs, MPOs, and FHWA. To access the recording and more information on the CoP, link here. (11-28-17)

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Reports Assess Environmental Justice Impacts of Toll Implementation, Rate Changes

The Transportation Research Board has issued a guidebook and set of tools for assessing environmental justice (EJ) effects of implementing tolls and rate changes. The guidebook provides a literature review of current tolling trends, pricing scenarios and collection methodologies, and public engagement approaches. It also provides examples of addressing EJ in several tolling lane projects and survey results of travel behavior. The guidebook shows the practitioner when and how to apply the tools through an eight-step process framework corresponding to the typical transportation project planning and development process. The guidebook and toolbox together help users measure the impacts of tolling on mobility, access, and household expenditures, and provide tools to engage low-income and minority populations. For more information, link to the research report and guidebook. (1-12-18)

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AASHTO CoP Hosts Call to Recap EJ Sessions at AMPO Meeting

AASHTO's Environmental Justice Community of Practice (CoP) held conference call on Oct. 31 to provide a recap and follow up to the Environmental Justice sessions at the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations’ annual meeting. Speakers provided an overview of their presentations, summarized the tabletop discussions with MPO’s, and discussed key takeaways for the CoP. For more information, link to the summary and to the CoP web page here. (10-17-17)

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Environmental Justice Community of Practice Webinar Now Available

The Center for Environmental Excellence by AASHTO, in partnership with the National Conference of State Legislators, has launched a series of six webinars on environmental justice in transportation. The first webinar, held Sept. 14, included a federal oversight summary, review of the Center’s past EJ work, as well as a discussion on EJ analysis, especially in the planning phase. DOTs and MPOs shared their view of good EJ analysis, as well as lessons learned and best practices. The webinar recording and presentations may be accessed here. (9-22-17)

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EPA Updates EJSCREEN Tool with New Features

The Environmental Protection Agency has updated its EJSCREEN tool with new features and functionality. The tool helps users identify areas that may have higher environmental burdens and vulnerable populations. The latest version includes a revised water indicator to screen for potential surface water pollution, ability to look at municipalities as identified areas, and new map layers including schools, public housing, and prisons. The new features were described in a series of webinars in August and September 2017. For more information, link to the EJSCREEN website and to the Sept. 7 webinar presentation. (9-7-17)

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Online Training Available Regarding Environmental Justice in Transportation

The integration of environmental justice principles in all levels of transportation decision making is available from the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Institute. The training is intended for transportation professionals in state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, local agencies, and consulting firms. Participants will learn to describe environmental justice (EJ) as it relates to transportation, the principles and benefits related to EJ, the importance of public involvement in the transportation decision making process, and EJ considerations in all phases of transportation including planning, environmental review, design, right-of-way, construction, and operations and maintenance. To register for the four-hour course, which is available online and on demand from the National Highway Institute, link here. (8-9-17)

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USDOT Symposium to Address Transportation, Civil Rights

The U.S. Department of Transportation is conducting a symposium to facilitate discussion around the transportation civil rights community. The symposium will include a series of web conference sessions to address development and implementation of Title VI best practices; provide tools for participants to effectively communicate and engage with diverse limited-English-proficient communities; and discussion of technological changes that are reshaping how transportation is provided. The sessions will also include discussion of regulatory requirements concerning service animals in air travel and the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program. The symposium is scheduled for May 17-18, 2017. Link here to register. For more information, link to the announcement. (4-27-17)

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Q and A Guidance on Title VI Complaints Updated by FHWA

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has updated question-and-answer guidance concerning handling of alleged violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The document addresses complaint-filing procedures, complaint processing and potential outcomes. The document also addresses investigation timeframes and how agencies gather information. FHWA regulations direct state departments of transportation to develop procedures for processing Title VI complaints filed with state DOTs against their federal-aid highway subrecipients. For more information link to the document. (3-27-17)

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FHWA Webinar to Discuss Use of EJ, Context Sensitive Solutions to Enhance Livability

The use of context sensitive solutions (CSS) and environmental justice (EJ) to enhance livability will be addressed in an April 12 webinar sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. The webinar will include discussion of strategies such as stakeholder engagement, identification of adverse impacts and implementation of CSS to improve livability in disadvantaged communities. The webinar also will include discussion of how CSS and EJ principles can be incorporated into the transportation decisionmaking process. For more information, link to the registration page. (3-27-17)

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Featured Case Study

  • Case Study Photo

    Pennsylvania DOT has developed its Every Voice Counts planning-level environmental justice guidance as well as separate project-level guidance.

    Read Case Study >Photo: Pennsylvania DOT

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AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials)
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