Environmental Justice

This page provides technical guidance to project teams for complying with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Environmental Justice (EJ) requirements during NEPA review at all project levels (EIS, EA, CE). This page also contains information useful to staff in other Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) programs as they identify and engage EJ communities.

Before you start

Read Chapter 458: Social and Community Effects of the Environmental Manual to learn more about considerations we take to assess social, economic, community, equity, and relocation impacts during the project development process.

Our commitment to inclusive community engagement

WSDOT identifies and engages Environmental Justice communities to ensure their fair treatment and access to meaningful involvement in the transportation decision-making process.

Read WSDOT’s Community Engagement Plan (pdf 2.1 mb) to learn how we engage with partners, stakeholders, tribes, and communities for all WSDOT efforts.

WSDOT Secretary, Roger Millar, speaking about Inclusion and Environmental Justice.

WSDOT staff should take the on-line EJ overview training through on our Environmental training webpage.  

The EJ Analysis Process by NEPA Classification

All projects are required to conduct an Environmental Justice analysis as a part of the NEPA review process.

Local agency projects should use Local Programs Environmental Classification Summary Guidebook (pdf 7.5 mb) Appendix M matrix to determine what analysis and level of documentation is appropriate for their project.

To ensure full inclusion, project teams should coordinate with Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) and region/modal communications staff to develop an inclusive public involvement strategy tailored to the communities who may be touched by the project.

For Categorically Excluded Projects

Follow this process for Categorically Excluded (CE) level projects to ensure compliance with Environmental Justice requirements.

  1. Use our list of Projects Exempt from Detailed Analysis (pdf 446 kb) to determine if your project is unlikely to have an adverse effect that disproportionately impacts a minority or low income population. Fish passage projects are not exempt from detailed EJ analysis because they usually require a detour or have noise and dust associated with them.
  2. Use the two FHWA approved websites EJScreen and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to collect demographic data for your project site. See our EJScreen step by step instructions (pdf 754 kb).
  3. Use our guide to Collect Demographic Data (pdf 680 kb).
  4. Define project effects on EJ populations in the EJ Memo (docx 33 kb) using Determining Project Effects on EJ Populations (pdf 811 kb). Use the Fish Passage EJ Memo (docx 18 kb) template to document your analysis.

For Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Statement (EA/EIS) Level Projects

The project team should:

  1. Follow the steps outlined in this study area process (pdf 105 kb) to define the project’s study area for Environmental Justice.
  2. Follow steps two and three in the Categorical Exclusion section above to collect demographic data.
  3. Create a plan for engaging with EJ populations with your Communications Office. Together, communicators and project team members should document how EJ populations will be engaged and informed throughout all stages of project delivery.
  4. Determine the level of documentation needed for the project. In some cases, when the issue is complex and has significant impacts, you may need to prepare detailed study, see EJ Discipline Report template (pdf 50 kb). Otherwise, you can report your findings in the environmental document itself.
  5. Evaluate the project’s impacts on disadvantaged populations. Identify and document the potential benefits, effects, and mitigation of each alternative. Consider:
    • How construction and operation potentially adversely affect these populations.
    • How construction and operation specifically benefit these populations.
    • Any reasonable and feasible measures to avoid or minimize high and adverse disproportionate effects.
    • Any project benefits that would affect low-income or minority populations as a part of the general public.
    • How will WSDOT modify the project to avoid or minimize disproportionately high and adverse effects?
    • Determine whether an effect falls disproportionately on low-income or minority populations.
  6. Determine whether the severity of the adverse impact is appreciably greater for minority and/or low-income populations than for the non-EJ populations.
  7. Consider cumulative impacts of the project in combination with other current and future projects. Examine other discipline reports or sections of EAs/EISs to understand project direct and indirect effects.
  8. Summarize how WSDOT engaged low-income and minority populations.

Does your project involve tolling? Contact Carol Lee Roalkvam, Carollee.Roalkvam@wsdot.wa.gov, to determine the appropriate action. Also, refer to FHWA’s Guidebook for State, Regional, and Local Governments on Addressing Potential Equity Impacts of Road Pricing.

Do you have or suspect homeless encampments on your project? Work with your Region Environmental Office and the Office of Equal Opportunity to develop a strategy for engagement.  

Visit the LEP webpage for more information on accommodating non-English speakers.

External Guidance                

Work with the federal lead agency to follow appropriate guidance. Most common leads are FHWA and FTA.