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Environmental Justice and Civil Rights Frequently Asked Questions FTA Best Practices

The Federal Transit Administration provides best practice examples for how to address environmental justice and civil rights compliance in the planning process. Sample frequently asked questions appear below. While the complete list of FAQs focus on transit, but the principles apply to other programs and activities of federal agencies, or federally funded. 

Questions and Answers

Does the Environmental Justice (EJ) Circular present new requirements for EJ compliance review?

No. FTA’s EJ Circular 4703.1, published in August 2012, does not introduce new requirements. FTA developed the Circular to clarify existing requirements, reiterate the importance of environmental justice considerations in transportation planning and project development, and to focus attention on examples of good practice.

What is the difference between Title VI and EJ?

Title VI is a statutory and regulatory requirement and all FTA grantees must comply with the provisions of Title VI. The Title VI Circular can be found at Title VI requirements are broader in scope than environmental justice and grantees should be careful not to mix the two. While they overlap, engaging in an EJ analysis under transportation planning and NEPA provisions will not satisfy Title VI requirements, as outlined in both Circulars. Similarly, a Title VI analysis may not necessarily satisfy environmental justice requirements (one reason is that Title VI does not include low-income populations).

How should grantees demonstrate that they have satisfactorily considered the needs and concerns of EJ populations?

FTA suggests a variety of options for integrating EJ considerations into existing programs, planning and project development processes, including:

  • Ensuring that the level and quality of . . . service is provided in a non-discriminatory manner: for example, when considering . . . options, grantees should take into account the challenges faced by low-income and minority households . . . .
  • Promoting full and fair participation in . . . decision-making without regard to race, color, national origin or income: for example, grantees should . . . be able to demonstrate how they seek out and consider the needs of those traditionally underserved by existing . . . systems and should periodically review the effectiveness of the procedures, strategies, and desired outcomes contained in their public participation plan to ensure a full and open participation process, which considers the needs of low-income and minority households.
  • Ensuring meaningful access to . . . programs and activities by persons with limited English proficiency: for example, grantees can prepare additional literature in the languages which are predominant in their regions.

What groups are included in EJ populations?

EJ populations include minority or low-income populations.

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See the full list of the FTA’s Environmental Justice Frequently Asked Questions here.

In addition to the FAQs, FTA has published circulars and letters on how to apply environmental justice and civil rights laws and principles. For example:

Federal Transit Administration, Environmental justice policy guidance for Federal Transit Administration recipients, Circular (FTA C 4703.1) (Washington, DC: Department of Transportation, Aug. 15, 2012);

FTA, Title VI Requirements and Guidelines for Federal Transit Administration Recipients, Circular (FTA C 4702.1B) (Washington, DC: Oct. 1, 2012)

Letters from FTA to Metropolitan Transportation Commission and San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (Jan. 15, 2010 and Feb. 12, 2010).

See Michael Rodriguez, MD, MPH; Marc Brenman; Marianne Engelman Lado, JD; and Robert García, JD, Using Civil Rights Tools to Address Health Disparities (The City Project Policy Report 2014)