Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice In Minority Populations and Low-income Populations

Policy Type Executive Order
Policy Jurisdiction Federal
Status Passed
Tags JEDI, Public Health

Policy Summary

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

E.O. 12898 directs federal agencies to:

  1. 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.
  1. develop a strategy for implementing environmental justice.
  1. 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.

In addition, the E.O. established an Interagency Working Group (IWG) on environmental justice chaired by the EPA Administrator and comprised of the heads of 11 departments or agencies and several White House offices.

The landmark Order was the first major federal action on environmental justice (EJ) in the United States and required that all federal agencies “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.”

The issuance of the Order brought legitimacy and attention to the EJ movement and its underlying principle that low-income communities and communities of color bear a disproportionate burden of environmental pollution and its health effects. The Order also inspired a tidal wave of regulatory and policy actions by states requiring appropriate agencies to adopt policies, practices and procedures to consider EJ in decision-making.  

From a substantive perspective, the Order lacked requirements that EJ play a determining factor in siting, rulemaking, and permitting decisions. Instead, the Order directed agencies to adopt an EJ strategy and then implement it. To date, not every federal agency has fulfilled the Order’s EJ mandates. 

Twenty years later, the Order’s legacy remains, notwithstanding several attempts over the years to weaken it.  

Additional Information

Policy summary courtesy of: The Environmental Protection Agency and National Resources Defense Council

Related Policies (by Tags)

Help us expand Policies for the People

Share policies that you think would be a good addition to this tool and our team will review them for inclusion in future updates.