Environmental Justice (EJ) 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, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people bears a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences resulting from the execution of Federal, state and local laws regulations, and policies. EJ seeks to empower people from all walks of life to protect human health and the environment through participation in environmental decision-making, outreach, and education.
In 1994, Presidential Executive Order (EO) 12898 made achieving EJ a part of every Federal Agency’s mission. The Department of Energy (DOE) supports this mission by: (1) identifying and addressing adverse human health or environmental effects of proposed DOE programs, policies, and projects on minority, low-income, and tribal communities; and (2) integrating EJ concerns into other DOE activities.
EERE’s EJ strategy promotes improved relationships with stakeholders to actively engage communities in proposed energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and decision making processes. To achieve the strategy, EERE regularly connects with various communities through programs, sponsored events, internship programs, and training about environmental and energy-related topics. EERE also sponsors knowledge-building activities to build trust and promote open dialogue between EERE and communities, as well as to generate interest in the environment and energy. These activities increase awareness within communities about environmental issues that are potentially relevant to them, and opportunities for the EJ proponents to incorporate their concerns into the DOE decision making process. A few of those activities are:
• Tribal Clean Energy program. 19 clean energy projects by tribal nations will receive more than $6.5 million to support energy development. The competitively selected projects in 10 states to assess local energy resources, develop renewable energy projects, and deploy clean energy technologies.
• Internship programs for minorities. In 2011, the Minority University Research Associates program engaged over 40 Universities to raise awareness of opportunities in EERE to address the environment and growing energy demands.
• The Solar Decathlon for National and International Universities. This project has engaged 112 teams of collegiate engineers, designers, and builders in developing energy solutions for affordable housing, amongst other categories.
To date, EERE’s activities have positively impacted a broad base of people. By sponsoring activities like those described above, EERE continues to help stakeholders gain a working knowledge of a variety of environmental and energy related subjects, as well as impacting the decision making processes.