Grand Valley Metro Council
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Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice (EJ) Background

Executive Order 12898 – Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations – was issued by President William J. Clinton on February 16, 1994. Its purpose is to focus federal attention on the environmental and human health effects of federal actions on minority and low-income populations with the goal of achieving environmental protection for all communities.

The Executive Order directs federal agencies to identify and address the disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their actions on minority and low-income populations, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law. It is also intended to promote nondiscrimination in federal programs that affect human health and the environment, as well as provide minority and low-income communities access to public information and public participation. The order directed each agency to develop a strategy for implementing environmental justice, and as a result, the Department of Transportation developed the following guiding principles to be incorporated into all planning and decision-making processes:

  1. 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.
  2. To ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities.
  3. To prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low income populations.

GVMC EJ Areas

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Regional EJ Areas

The most recently designated EJ areas were developed for the 2040 MTP using block group geography and 2010 Census Data and 5-Year (2007-2011) American Community Survey estimates. A block group was flagged as an EJ area if the population for any minority group in that block group met or exceeded its county-wide average OR if the percentage of the population in poverty met or exceeded its county-wide average. Using this methodology, 57% of the study area was flagged for EJ analysis - see map to the left. Additional information regarding the development of EJ areas for the 2040 MTP can be found in the Plan.

EJ and Transportation Accessibility

Transportation accessibility is a key component of the vision, goals, and objectives of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council’s 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), and is also a federal priority. To help promote the implementation of these accessibility-related goals, objectives, and priorities, an analysis was performed to assess regional access to roadway, transit, and nonmotorized transportation networks, as well as accessibility to key destinations – hospitals, community colleges and universities, and employment centers – via these transportation systems. The analysis utilized GIS software and placed special emphasis on measuring accessibility for minority and low-income environmental justice (EJ) populations in an effort to make EJ considerations increasingly meaningful in the regional planning process. This assessment was a first step in an ongoing process involving coordination with transit and community agencies. The months-long study was the first of this kind conducted by the MPO, and was performed as a function of long-range planning efforts. A link to the report is below.

Environmental Justice and Transportation Accessibility Report

Banner photo by Imzadi1979 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons