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Oregon Environmental Justice Task Force

Policy Details

Policy Type: Policy
Jurisdiction: State — Oregon
Status: Passed
Tags: Conservation & Biodiversity, Environmental Justice, JEDI, Public Health

Policy Summary

In 2008, Oregon enacted an environmental justice law requiring state natural resource agencies, including the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and 13 others, to enhance public participation and involve those affected by agency actions. This law, established by Senate Bill 420, also created an Environmental Justice Task Force.

In 2022, the Oregon Legislature passed HB 4077, which renamed and codified the existing Environmental Justice Task Force as the Environmental Justice Council (EJC). This 13-member statewide council, established within the Office of the Governor, is tasked with advising the Governor and state natural resource agencies on environmental justice issues.

Supported by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Health Authority, the EJC is directed to develop an environmental justice mapping tool to provide geospatial information on EJ impacts and guide state agencies in rule and policy adoption. The law mandates an inclusive community engagement process for developing the mapping tool and establishes technical collaborations with the Office of Enterprise Information Services, the Institute of Natural Resources at Oregon State University, and the Population Research Center at Portland State University to maintain and make the tool publicly available.

HB 4077 also expanded the definition of “environmental justice communities” to include a broad range of groups such as communities of color, low-income communities, communities with health inequities, tribal, rural, remote, coastal communities, and others traditionally underrepresented and adversely affected by environmental and health hazards, including seniors, youth, and persons with disabilities. Environmental justice is defined as equal protection from environmental and health risks, fair treatment, and meaningful involvement in decision-making for all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, income, or other identities, concerning the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies affecting their living, working, learning, and cultural environments.


Does the policy solution re-distribute power from mainstream institutions to impacted Black community?

While Oregon is made up mostly of a white population, by defining what an EJ community is, allows for more targeted investments and engagement of Black, low-income, Native American, Hispanic populations and other historically marginalized groups. Further, HB 4077 will create an equity mapping tool to include Oregon’s most vulnerable populations in policy conversations around climate-change mitigation. This tool aids in identifying areas requiring conservation efforts, ensuring that data-driven decisions are made to protect vulnerable ecosystems and communities. When addressing environmental and climate justice, geospatial tools such as the environmental justice mapping tool are invaluable for enabling collaborative, data-driven decision-making. Therefore, this policy has the potential to re-distribute power to Black communities in Oregon.

Does this policy address needs impacting diverse groups within Black communities (Black femmes, Black LGBTQ+ communities, Black immigrants, people in poverty, differently abled, people impacted by justice system)? If so, how? 

The newly fully operational Task Force will provide significant opportunities for EJ communities throughout the state to bring critical issues to its attention. For instance, farmworkers enduring high heat conditions and living in labor housing with inadequate protection from the heat and other elements will be able to voice their concerns.

Does this policy provide more decision-making power at the hands of Black communities?  

The Task Force was serving without a budget or staff. With the new dedicated resources, the EJTF – revitalized as the Environmental Justice Council – would be better supported to reach environmental justice communities across Oregon. The mapping tool created under this law offers guidance to state agencies when adopting rules and policies, aimed at ensuring that conservation efforts are aligned with environmental justice principles and that the needs of marginalized communities are considered.

Does the policy undermine extractive economies like capitalism and restore community power around a local and regenerative economy/ primary production?  

Unlikely, however more research is needed to make an accurate determination.

Does the policy repair past harm and uphold civil and human rights, health and environmental protections? 

Yes. Oregon’s Environmental Justice Council supports conservation efforts by providing critical data and guidance through the environmental justice mapping tool, promoting inclusive community engagement, offering informed recommendations to policymakers, and ensuring that conservation strategies are equitable and reflective of the needs of all communities. This recent resolution also outlines the right of all people to clean air, safe and affordable drinking water and protection from climate hazards for all. Furthermore, measure for inclusive engagement can repair past harms. The council will be holding “listening sessions” around the state to hear about environmental justice concerns directly from impacted communities, a right that was not equitably enforced historically.

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