Everyone has the right to live, learn, work, and play in a clean, safe, and healthy environment, regardless of race, ethnicity, language, or income. Our Office of Equity and Environmental Justice is working to assure no community in Washington is overburdened by environmental pollution.
The first statewide law to create a coordinated and inclusive approach to environmental justice was passed by the Washington Legislature in 2021. Soon after, our Office of Equity & Environmental Justice was established.
Our Office of Equity and Environmental Justice leads our agency strategy to reduce pollution and health disparities in communities most at risk. This Office also helps us identify governmental barriers for at-risk communities and determines how we can remove them.
Addressing environmental and health inequities
Today, not all communities share the benefits of environmental protection equally. Low-income communities experience more drinking water contamination. People of color are more likely to lack access to parks and green spaces in their neighborhoods. The effects of climate change are already visible for many vulnerable communities. Many of these same populations face disproportionate exposure to harmful chemicals in their neighborhoods and in consumer products.
As we work to protect land, air, and water, we include environmental justice principles in our work. This will help eliminate injustices and inequities that exist in many Washington communities today.
Government-to-government coordination is an important part of our work. We’re expanding our coordination efforts with tribal governments to develop an environmental justice implementation plan. Our efforts also include developing a framework for tribal consultation. When we take significant actions affecting Tribes’ rights and interests, the framework will provide improved consultation and coordination.
We help our environmental programs and offices engage with the public in meaningful ways. To advance our current strategies, we’re developing an Environmental Justice Community Engagement Plan. Our plan will improve the opportunities people have to get involved with decisions affecting their lives and communities.
Strategic investments will advance our efforts to clean up contaminated sites, reduce pollution, and improve the health and quality of life for communities overburdened with pollution.
We're developing environmental justice assessments for our budgeting, funding, and expenditure processes. These assessments will help reduce environmental harm by directing grants and other funding toward vulnerable populations and communities where pollution is most prevalent.
While environmental justice has been an area of focus for us for many years, Washington’s Environmental Justice law prioritizes this work. We are now developing an agency implementation plan, which will:
- Require environmental reviews for funding decisions and permitting decisions to identify and address environmental health disparities.
- Reduce exposure to environmental hazards on tribal lands.
- Track and measure implementation of environmental justice in our agency.
Our agency’s internal Environmental Justice Committee, which includes representatives from every office and program at Ecology, is helping integrate environmental justice into our day-to-day work.
About environmental justice
Environmental justice is based on the reality that certain groups are overburdened with pollution. People most at risk from pollution and other environmental impacts need a voice in the development and enforcement of laws and regulations that affect them. Having a voice is essential as communities take action and create positive change through federal, state, and local laws.
In our agency actions and decision-making, we prioritize fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people — regardless of race, color, national origin, or income. Environmental justice is made possible when all communities can access information and decision-makers.
Learn more about what we’re working on:
Language access and nondiscrimination
We’re committed to serving all people in Washington and being inclusive. We do not exclude people or treat them differently because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, income level, disability, sexual orientation, or immigration status. We also offer free language services about our programs and services for people whose primary language is not English.
Our Office of Equity and Environmental Justice ensures we comply with Title VI and federal non-discrimination laws.