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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

CUNY Faculty Evaluates the Impact of a Federal Executive Order on Environmental Justice

Dr. Elizabeth Geltman, Professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and colleagues evaluated the impact of Executive Order 12898 to advance environmental justice and mandated consideration of environmental justice in federal agency actions. The findings were published in the journal Family and Community Health.

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[Photo: Dr. Elizabeth Geltman]

The research team conducted a review evaluating the frequency and effective use of Executive Order 12898 since execution with particular focus following President Obama’s Plan Environmental Justice 2014.

The key objectives of Executive Order 128989 were to (1) foster federal agency responsibility for environmental justice by requiring environmental justice evaluation in federal actions, (2) foster nondiscrimination in federal programs, and (3) facilitate public participation of minority and low-income communities.

The research team collected data from Lexis/Nexis and from dockets on Regulations.gov to determine how many federal regulations over the past 21 years included statements of environmental justice evaluation compliance with Executive Order 12898. They also evaluated the impact of President Obama’s renewed promise to empower areas stressed by pollution.

Environmental justice concerns are simply not well reflected in federal agency rule making as reflected in the notice and comment process published on Regulations.gov. The Environmental Protection Agency performed at a consistently higher level than other federal agencies when taking environmental justice matters into consideration. Overall, although progress toward environmental justice has occurred, the lack of consistent inter-agency environmental justice policy discussion, implementation, enforcement, and judicial review has stymied progress in remedying environmental parity and brought Executive Order 12898’s glaring shortcomings into plain view. To the extent federal agencies discussed Executive Order 12898, most did so in boilerplate rhetoric that satisfied compliance but was devoid of detailed thought or analysis.

The research team concluded that both Executive Order 12898 and Plan Environmental Justice 2104 had little, if any, impact on federal regulatory decision making.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27214669