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DHS Environmental Justice Program and Strategy

The Department of Homeland Security is committed to identifying, addressing, and advancing environmental justice that may result from DHS programs, policies, and activities. The environmental justice program within DHS is co-led by the Office of the Chief Readiness Support Officer’s Sustainability and Environmental Programs and the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. These offices work throughout the Department and Components to provide policy and guidance, internal and external training, and subject matter expertise while meeting the intent of Executive Order (EO) 14096, Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All and EO 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, and the Memorandum of Understanding on Environmental Justice and Executive Order 12898 (MOU). The MOU committed each agency to, among other things, finalize an environmental justice strategy and prepare annual implementation reports. The Department’s Annual Environmental Justice Implementation Report is posted each spring and is available below. The DHS Environmental Justice Strategy for Fiscal Years 2021-2025 is also available below. Both documents are available for public comment at any time by emailing dhsenvironmentaljustice@hq.dhs.gov.

On December 18, 2023, DHS issued a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register, Docket ID: DHS-2023-0048, asking specific questions on environmental justice efforts within the Department. The public comment period will be open for 60 days, closing on February 16, 2024. Three virtual information and listening session will be held via Zoom in January during the public comment period to hear participants’ responses to the questions in the RFI. More information on the sessions and how to register is provided below. 

The Department of Homeland Security (Department or DHS) invites comment and feedback from the public, including Tribal Nations and indigenous peoples, on barriers and challenges, suggestions, and ideas to help advance the Department’s environmental justice program, help DHS conduct meaningful engagement of the public in decision making, and address challenges facing environmental justice communities related to DHS programs and activities. On December 18, 2023, DHS issued a Request for Information (RFI), Docket ID: DHS-2023-0048, asking specific questions. The public comment period will be open for 60 days, closing on February 16, 2024.

Executive Order 14096, Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All, signed April 21, 2023, defines “environmental justice” as the just treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of income, race, color, national origin, Tribal affiliation, or disability, in agency decision-making and other Federal activities that affect human health and the environment so that people: 

  • are fully protected from disproportionate and adverse human health and environmental effects (including risks) and hazards, including those related to climate change, the cumulative impacts of environmental and other burdens, and the legacy of racism or other structural or systemic barriers; and
  • have equitable access to a healthy, sustainable, and resilient environment in which to live, play, work, learn, grow, worship, and engage in cultural and subsistence practices.

DHS will host three virtual information and listening sessions via Zoom during the public comment period to hear participants’ responses to the questions in the RFI. 

Please register to attend one of the information and listening sessions through the links below:

  • Friday January 19, 2:00-3:30 PM, Eastern Time – Session 1
  • Tuesday, January 23, 2:00-3:30 PM, Eastern Time – Session 2 (Tribal and Indigenous peoples)
  • Monday, January 29, 3:30-5:00 PM, Eastern Time – Session 3

Translations of this announcement and RFI are available in Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

For questions, please contact dhsenvironmentaljustice@hq.dhs.gov.  For free language services, including written translation or oral interpretation of this document, or to request this document in alternate formats such as Braille or large print, please contact us at crcl@hq.dhs.gov.

What is Environmental Justice (EJ)?

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 no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental, and commercial operations or policies. Fair treatment will be achieved when all groups enjoy 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. Learn more about Environmental Justice.

Meaningful involvement means:

  • People have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health (e.g., access to information in languages other than English);
  • Decision makers will seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected;
  • Community concerns will be considered in the decision-making process; and
  • The public's contribution can influence the regulatory agency's decision.

How does DHS pursue and address environmental justice considerations?

Environmental justice considerations may arise in the Department’s interactions with historically marginalized and low-income populations that have the potential to impact human health or the environment, for example, in securing and managing the nation’s land and water borders, in carrying out disaster response and recovery activities, and in regulatory permitting activities. 

DHS Phase One Scorecard which focused on the following three areas: 

  • Justice40 Initiative 
  • Environmental and Civil Rights Protection 
  • Institutionalizing Environmental Justice 

Why does DHS consider potential EJ effects from its programs, policies, and activities?

For DHS, environmental justice considerations could occur during compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act; Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations; Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government; Executive Order 13990, Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis; and Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, among other federal laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, and can include operational, financial assistance, and administrative activities.

DHS is in alignment with White House goals to advance environmental justice. Every Component of the Department has a responsibility to consider environmental justice effects that may result from DHS programs, policies, and activities.

What is the relationship between climate change and EJ?

Climate change is an environmental justice issue. Everyone is affected by climate change; however, some communities are at a greater risk of disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects from elevated temperature and weather impacts. These communities are typically low-income and consist largely of historically marginalized populations that are often co-located in areas with poorer quality infrastructure that can be less able to withstand extreme weather conditions. These communities face a greater risk of other cumulative impacts such as economic challenges, energy insecurity, and food and water insecurity. Due to lack of resources and systemic inequality, these communities are more at-risk from natural disasters and illnesses and have a greater risk of displacement due to climate change, intensified natural disasters, and rising sea levels.

EJ and Climate Change at DHS

A changing climate calls for a focus on planning for resilience to prevent, anticipate, adapt, and recover from natural and human-made disruptive events. As the Department expands adaption, mitigation, and resilience efforts across programs, environmental justice principles must be integrated to ensure that disadvantaged populations also benefit from these programs and policies. The Department takes action in alignment with the DHS EJ Strategy to integrate the principles and requirements of environmental justice and racial equity into climate change initiatives, such as through the Justice40 Initiative.

DHS and the Justice40 Initiative

Currently, DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency has identified four programs covered under the Justice40 Initiative. These include Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities and Flood Mitigation Assistance competitive annual grant programs, which both provide Hazard Mitigation Assistance to state, local, tribal and territorial governments to make communities more resilient to natural hazards as well as the FEMA Risk Mapping, Assessment and Planning and the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program, which help to ensure that communities are prepared for disasters.

DHS Climate Change Initiatives

The DHS Climate Change Action Group (CCAG), comprised of senior officials from across the Department, is focused on uniting, refocusing, and elevating the Department’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis. In 2021, the Department developed the 2021 Climate Action Plan and 2021 Strategic Framework for Addressing Climate Change, which the CCAG oversees. For more information about DHS’ climate actions go to the DHS Actions: Climate Change site.

Who can I contact with an environmental justice concern or question?

The Environmental Justice program within DHS is co-led by the Office of the Chief Readiness Support Officer’s Sustainability and Environmental Programs and the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Environmental justice concerns or questions may be sent to both offices at: sep-ephp@hq.dhs.gov and CRCL@hq.dhs.gov.

Additionally, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC) is a federal advisory committee on environmental justice. Members of the public are encouraged to attend NEJAC meetings to provide input on federal EJ initiatives.

Last Updated: 01/10/2024
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