How Environmental Justice Laws Affect Underserved Populations
Environmental Justice: 1994 Presidential Executive Order directed every Federal agency to make environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing the effects of all programs, policies, and activities on "minority populations and low-income populations." The DOT's environmental justice initiatives accomplish this goal by involving the potentially affected public in developing transportation projects that fit harmoniously within their communities without sacrificing safety or mobility.
Title VI: Title VI states that 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
Age Discrimination Act of 1975: This act states that no person shall, on the basis of age, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under, any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
Individuals with Disabilities: This Act states that individuals with disabilities must be provided equal opportunity to participate in or benefit from public services, programs, and activities. The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities.
Limited English Proficiency: This Executive Order requires Federal agencies to examine the services they provide, identify any need for services to those with limited English proficiency (LEP), and develop and implement a system to provide those services so LEP persons can have meaningful access to them.
Environmental justice, Title VI and other non-discrimination laws are not new concerns. Today, because of the evolution of the transportation planning process, they are receiving greater emphasis. Effective transportation decision making depends upon understanding and properly addressing the unique needs of different socioeconomic groups. This is more than a desktop exercise; it requires involving the public. The U.S. DOT is committed to this more comprehensive, inclusive approach. These laws protect diverse segments of the population which have been traditionally underserved within the transportation decision-making process. Considering the needs and potential impacts of transportation projects on these populations may result in greater transportation equity, as benefits are likely to be more equitably distributed amongst the affected communities.