Community engagement is a cornerstone of environmental justice. People in overburdened communities and vulnerable populations who experience disproportionate harm from environmental actions are also often marginalized and excluded from government decision-making processes.
We have a responsibility to address this injustice by removing barriers to access and providing authentic, accessible opportunities for all Washingtonians to shape the decisions that impact their lives.
Community engagement in the HEAL Act
The HEAL Act requires the seven covered state agencies to create community engagement plans, considering guidance from the Environmental Justice Council. We are committed to a strong partnership with the Environmental Justice Council, and mindful of our duties to the Washington Legislature and the people of Washington.
On July 1, 2022, we adopted a provisional draft community engagement plan developed collaboratively by the seven HEAL Agencies. The provisional draft plan has not yet been reviewed by the Environmental Justice Council. The provisional draft plan will be finalized after incorporating guidance from the Council, along with guidance received through community engagement and Tribal consultation.
Community engagement at Ecology
Ecology has always been committed to providing opportunities for public participation and to engaging with Washington’s diverse communities. Under the HEAL Act we are now taking action to center equity and environmental justice in our engagement work.
Recent and ongoing activities include:
- Hiring an Environmental Justice Engagement Coordinator to provide central leadership for equity-oriented community engagement
- Building structure for internal coordination around community engagement so we can minimize the burden on communities with whom we engage
- Seeking input from community-based organizations to help inform our ongoing work to fulfill our HEAL obligations, including environmental justice assessments and budgeting and funding, and help us plan for future community engagement around the HEAL Act
- Updating the provisional draft community engagement plan to align with Ecology’s agency-specific community engagement goals and processes. We will finalize the plan after incorporating guidance received through the Environmental Justice Council, community engagement, and Tribal consultation