Environmental justice

Learn about our agency’s commitment to environmental justice and how we are implementing the newly passed HEAL (Healthy Environment for All) Act.

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, rules, and policies.

Environmental justice in Washington State, as provided in the Healthy Environment for All Act (HEAL Act) addresses disproportionate environmental and health impacts in all laws, rules, and policies by prioritizing vulnerable populations and overburdened communities, the equitable distribution of resources and benefits, and eliminating harm. (RCW 70A.02.010)

We want your input to help inform decisions on conducting HEAL Act required Environmental Justice assessments and how we communicate and engage with you. Public Comment period now open through June 23, 2023. 

How we are advancing environmental justice at WSDOT

In alignment with the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (1964), the Executive Order 12898 (1994) and the state’s environmental justice law (RCW 70A.02) referred to as the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act, WSDOT acknowledges Environmental justice must be integrated in all areas of our agency in order to address unfairly high and harmful human health or environmental effects of our programs, policies, rules, budget decisions and actions.

The WSDOT Heal Act Project Brief (PDF) and The HEAL Act Tree (PDF) reflects the teams, areas and divisions that will integrate WSDOT’s implementation of the HEAL Act. 

Major milestones & opportunities for our partners

  • January 1, 2022 - Department of Health convenes the Environmental Justice Council.
  • July 1, 2022 - Agencies develop Community Engagement Plans.
  • September 1, 2022 - Agencies begin to provide annual reports to Environmental Justice Council.
  • November 1, 2022 - Washington State Institute for Public Policy reviews the EHD map.
  • 2022 - Agencies develop tribal consultation frameworks in coordination with tribal governments.
  • January 1, 2023 - Agencies incorporate implementation plans into agency strategic plans.
  • July 1, 2023 - Agencies implement and publish budgeting environmental justice principles, and begin conducting environmental justice assessments.
  • November 30, 2023 - Council submits final report to legislature and governor.
  • September 1, 2024 - Agencies publish dashboard reports.
  • 2024 - Department of Ecology begins reporting summary auctions reports by calendar year to the council.
  • July 1, 2025 - Agencies define additional significant agency actions.
  • December 1, 2027 - Department of Ecology begins reporting on implementation of the Climate Commitment Act to the council.

Note: The Climate Commitment Act (CCA) requires the Environmental Justice Council to advise on several elements of climate programs and receive reports on certain aspects of the implementation of this law. This timeline will be updated as more information is available.

Our acknowledgment

It is our policy that no person shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be otherwise subjected to discrimination under any WSDOT program or activity, whether federally funded or not. We acknowledge that people of color, Black communities and low-income populations continue to be disproportionately exposed to environmental harms in their communities. As a result, there is a higher risk of harmful health outcomes for those communities. This risk is worsened when in combination with preexisting social and economic barriers and environmental risks and results in cumulative environmental health impacts.

State environmental justice requirements

  • Create and adopt an equitable community engagement plan. (RCW 70A.02.050)
  • Create, adopt, and include an EJ implementation plan.
  • Update WSDOT’s consultation framework and government-to-government relationship (RCW 70A.02.100)
  • Notify significant agency actions in the Washington State Register.
  • Develop a process and adopt a “checklist” for conducting EJ assessments.
  • Conduct EJ assessments on significant agency actions. 
  • Incorporate EJ principles into its decision processes for budget development and expenditures.
  • Publish on its website the types of agency budget and expenditure decisions the agency will focus on to create environmental benefits. Processes to include HEAL act principles (PDF, 87kb)
  • Annually update the EJ council on the development and implementation of EJ strategic actions.
  • Collaborate with the EJ interagency work-group in EJ strategic actions development. 

WSDOT environmental justice guidance to practitioners

Guidance, tools and strategies WSDOT practitioners use towards compliance with federal and state environmental justice requirements including community engagement and determining high and adversely disproportionate effects to Washington populations on our engineering & standards environmental justice web page.

Reports and information

The links below provide more details on how we set forth the anti-racism and diversity, equity, and inclusion planning policy, how Washington State invests in environmental justice through the passage of the HEAL Act in 2021, the focused work by The Environmental Justice Task Force, and how climate justice is focused on addressing the unequal impacts of climate change by prioritizing the health and safety of those who face the greatest risk.

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