2014 marks the 20th Anniversary of President Clinton’s Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low Income Populations” issued February 11, 1994.  In recognition of this anniversary, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released Plan EJ 2014.  Environmental Justice is central to the discussion of environmental policy, as the EPA notes, “Plan EJ 2014 is both a recognition of President Clinton’s Executive Order 12898 addressing issues surrounding environmental justice, as well as a progressive step in incorporating the work of the EPA  to have an environmental justice framework and awareness.”

In summary, Executive Order 12898 states that “each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice a part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies and activities on minority populations and low-income populations in the United States and its territories and possessions, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands” (Executive Order 12898).

Executive Order 12898 and EPA’s Plan EJ 2014 both emphasize the importance and relevance of placing environmental justice at the forefront of environmental policies and actions in the upcoming years. Equal access to information and rights regarding environmental information and issues regardless of race, religion, class, gender, sexuality or national origin is a basic civil right.

This year also commemorates:

The 50th Anniversary of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Section 601 of the Act states: “The general principle that no person in the United States shall be excluded from participation in or otherwise discriminated against on the grounds of race, color, or national origin under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The 60th Anniversary of the Supreme Court Case Brown vs. Board of Education (Topeka, KS)
On May 17, 1954, this landmark case delegitimized laws that segregated people based on race declaring that school segregation violated the Fourteenth Amendment and ordered the desegregation of schools.

The 40th Anniversary of the Historic Desegregation Busing Decision for Boston Public Schools
20 years after the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case ruled the desegregation of schools unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity, issued a decision on June 21, 1974, mandating desegregation busing as a way to integrate the Boston Public School system.

2014 is an exciting year of anniversaries for historical events that have helped progress equality in a variety of forms. Now, with EPA’s Plan EJ 2014 the hope is to continue moving forward with strong efforts to minimize the gap of inequality among all in regard to environmental issues and the many aspects of day-to-day life with which these issues intersect.