The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) encourages integrating the goals of environmental justice into existing operations to ensure that consideration of environmental justice principles is an integral part of all programs, policies, and activities – from the planning process through to project completion. These principles have been integrated into MnDOT’s Title VI Program, further explained below.
Per USDOT’s environmental justice strategy, “environmental justice” is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, national origin, or educational level with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.
Executive Order 12898 (PDF), Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, was signed by President Clinton in February 1994. The Executive Order stated that, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations. In accordance with the Executive Order, USDOT and FHWA issued Orders on environmental justice, DOT Order 5610.2(a) and FHWA Order 6640.23A, and FTA issued policy guidance through an Environmental Justice Circular: FTA C 4703.1 (PDF).
The environmental justice Orders and Circular set forth steps to prevent disproportionately high and adverse effects to minority or low-income populations not only through environmental analyses conducted as part of Federal transportation planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) provisions, but also through Title VI analyses. Title VI is a federal law that protects individuals and groups from discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The specific text of Title VI law (42 U.S.C. § 2000d (PDF)) states: "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
MnDOT’s Title VI and Non-Discrimination Policy is an expanded policy against discrimination and includes additional protected classes. Failure to fairly treat and meaningfully include environmental justice populations in MnDOT programs and activities may be a form of discrimination. MnDOT’s Title VI Program Policy states:
“Federal and state law prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, low-income status, creed, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and status with regard to public assistance. MnDOT is committed to ensuring that no person in the State of Minnesota is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise subjected to discrimination on the basis of these protected classes under any and all programs, services, or activities administered by the department and its subrecipients and contractors. Additionally, MnDOT is committed to ensuring that its programs incorporate access for people with limited English proficiency.
“Any person who believes that they, individually, or as a member of any specific class of persons, have been subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, low-income status, creed, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or status with regard to public assistance may file a discrimination complaint with MnDOT. All complaints received by MnDOT must be routed promptly to the Title VI Coordinator in the Office of Civil Rights.”
Together, Title VI, environmental justice, and other nondiscrimination authorities protect diverse segments of the population from bearing disproportionate burdensome impacts resulting from the transportation decision-making process. MnDOT’s Title VI Program aims to provide inclusive processes that require consideration of historically disadvantaged persons and groups in all MnDOT programs and activities.
Environmental Justice legal authorities and helpful links
- FHWA’s Environmental Justice Website
- FTA’s Environmental Justice FAQs
- EPA’s Website on NEPA
- EPA Environmental Justice Technical Guidance
- Federal Circulars:
- Legal Authorities:
- 23 CFR 200 (Title VI)
- 23 CFR 711.111 (Early Coordination, Public Involvement, Project Development)
- 23 CFR 450 (Planning)
- 23 USC 139 (PDF) (Environmental Reviews for Project Decision-making)
- 42 USC 4321 (PDF) (NEPA)
- 40 CFR Parts 1500 to 1508 (Council on Environmental Quality – NEPA Process)
- 49 CFR 21 (Title VI)
- Executive Order 12898 (PDF)
- DOT Order Environmental Justice Order 5610.2(a)
- FHWA Environmental Justice Order 6640.23A