What is EJ?

Definition of Environmental Justice

Federal agencies base their definition of Environmental Justice on President Clinton's 1994 White House Executive Order 12898 which requires each federal agency to make environmental justice a part of its mission by identifying and addressing the disproportionately high adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States and its territories.

"Agency Responsibilities. To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, and consistent with the principles set forth In the report on the National Performance Review, each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States and its territories and possessions, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Commonwealth of the Marian islands."



EPA definition of 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. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It 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.


Department of Transportation definition of EJ: There are three fundamental environmental justice principles:
To avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority populations and low-income populations.
To ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process.
To prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income populations.


Department of Energy: Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people—regardless of race, ethnicity, income or education level—in environmental decision making. Environmental Justice programs promote the protection of human health and the environment, empowerment via public participation, and the dissemination of relevant information to inform and educate affected communities. Department of Energy Environmental Justice programs are designed to build and sustain community capacity for meaningful participation for all stakeholders in Department of Energy host communities. 


Department of the Interior: The Department will involve minority and low-income communities as we make environmental decisions and assure public access to our environmental information. The Department will provide its employees environmental justice guidance and with the help of minority and low-income communities develop training which will reduce their exposure to environmental health and safety hazards. The Department will use and expand its science, research, and data collection capabilities on innovative solutions to environmental justice-related issues (for example, assisting in the identification of different consumption patterns of populations who rely principally on fish and/or wildlife for subsistence). The Department will use our public partnership opportunities with environmental and grassroots groups, business, academic, labor organizations, and Federal, Tribal, and local governments to advance environmental justice.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention definition of 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 that no group of people, including a racial, ethnic, or a socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies.

Meaningful involvement means that:
(1) potentially affected community residents have an appropriate opportunity to participate in decisions about a proposed activity that will affect their environment and/or health;
(2) the public's contribution can influence the regulatory agency's decision;
(3) the concerns of all participants involved will be considered in the decision making process; and
(4) the decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected.