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FHWA Releases Environmental Justice Peer Network Report

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The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Office of Human Environment held a four-part environmental justice peer network series in 2021. The sessions were focused on federal, state, and regional-level tools available for spatial analysis of environmental justice. The summary report from these meetings, attended by state and regional planners, is posted online here (PDF).

What is Environmental Justice

A 1994 executive order (PDF) established a new requirement across the Federal government that each agency identify and address, “as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.” Since then, FHWA and other federal agencies have developed their own EJ implementation strategies for their activities and created resources and guidance for their grantees and partners using federal funds.

Environmental Justice Peer Network Report

The EJ peer network series allowed regional and state professionals to share how they have used Geographic Information System (GIS) tools to identify locations of underserved populations in their service area. According to the summary report, using spatial information can help with “the goal of facilitating equitable outcomes through transportation planning and project development.”

Such tools can also help agencies conducting Planning and Environment Linkages (PEL). The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) documents developed for environmental review of transportation projects consider disproportionate and adverse effects on people of color and people with limited incomes. As a result, it can be beneficial to transportation professionals during the planning process to use information from the peer network report. These tools can help with identifying populations that at risk for experiencing adverse impacts and identifying potential alternatives that avoid, mitigate, or offset those negative effects.

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