Executive Order (EO) 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, requires federal agencies to identify and address, as appropriate, “disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently defines environmental justice as “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. These goals will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process in order to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”
EO 12898 and an accompanying Presidential Memorandum, issued in 1994 by the Clinton Administration, set out to focus federal attention on the environmental and human health conditions in minority communities and low-income communities and directs each federal agency to make environmental justice part of its mission. The EO listed participating federal agencies and directed the EPA to establish a Federal Environmental Justice Interagency Working Group (EJIWG) to provide a forum for federal agencies to collectively advance environmental justice principles. The EJIWG works as a federal family to increase local community capacity to promote and implement innovative and comprehensive solutions to environmental justice issues. To recommit to address environmental justice through a more collaborative, comprehensive and efficient process, members of the EJIWG signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Environmental Justice and EO 12898 (EJ MOU)1 in August 2011. Although the DHS did not exist in 1994 and is thus not an agency expressly included in the EO, the Department joined 17 other federal agencies by signing the EJ MOU.
As part of the EJ MOU, participating federal agencies were tasked with creating an Environmental Justice Strategy to outline agency strategic goals toward meeting the intent of the agreement and EO 12898, and encouraged to report annually on progress towards meeting those goals. The following report serves as the Department’s Annual Implementation Report for the fiscal year 2020 (FY2020). DHS primarily considers environmental justice through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq. and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) implementing regulations at 40 C.F.R. Parts 1500-1508 process. The Department also has a responsibility through Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. and the DHS implementing regulations at 6 C.F.R. Part 21 and 44 C.F.R. Part 7 to ensure nondiscrimination in the Department’s federally assisted programs, including those that affect human health or the environment. While the following report is not all inclusive of Departmental environmental justice efforts, it provides an overview of programs and policies and DHS’s commitment toward achieving the goals set forth in EO 12898, EJ MOU and the Department’s Environmental Justice Strategy.
In January 2021, President Biden issued three executive orders that strengthen federal agency efforts related to environmental justice:
- Executive Order 13990, Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis. January 20, 2021;
- Executive 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. January 27, 2021; and
- Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. January 20, 2021.
In FY 2021, DHS will take action to advance the principles of these new EOs through implementation of the Department’s Environmental Justice Strategy.
|U.S. Department of Homeland Security Environmental Justice Annual Implementation Report for FY2020