State Environmental Officials Announce Update to Environmental Justice Policy
BOSTON – January 30, 2017 - Seeking to serve the environmental needs of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents, state environmental officials today announced updates to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ (EEA) Environmental Justice Policy. The updated Policy reinforces that all communities have a strong voice in environmental decision-making regardless of race, color, national origin, income or English language proficiency. The updated Policy further recognizes the need for those community voices in decisions on investments in the preservation and enhancement of the Commonwealth’s open spaces and urban park network, and re-affirms the need for attention on communities built in and around the state’s oldest areas and where there are legacies of environmental pollution.
In updating the office’s Environmental Justice Policy, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton has provided a guide for EEA and its state agencies to promote environmental justice and to develop corresponding strategies. Environmental Justice is the equal protection and meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies and the equitable distribution of environmental benefits.
“Massachusetts has always been a national leader in environmental causes, and under the careful guidance of the Baker-Polito Administration, we will continue to take proactive steps to ensuring the state’s natural resources are safeguarded and that our state’s residents are protected from harmful pollutants,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “EEA directly works with its agencies to ensure environmental justice populations are enabled to actively participate in the environmental decision making process, and by working together, we will be successful in important community initiatives that benefit us all.”
The Environmental Justice Policy is based on the fundamental belief that everybody has the right to be protected from pollution and to enjoy environmentally protected spaces within their communities. The policy seeks to address the disproportionate share of environmental burdens experienced within Environmental Justice populations, which are communities and neighborhoods determined to be most at risk of being unaware of or unable to participate in environmental decision making or to gain access to state environmental resources. Additionally, the policy seeks to promote community involvement in the planning and environmental decision-making process to maintain and/or enhance the environmental quality of Environmental Justice populations’ neighborhoods.
“The Secretary’s Policy Update contains important requirements for working with Environmental Justice communities on environmental issues,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “We look forward to implementing the new Policy in a transparent, inclusive manner on issues of importance to communities across the Commonwealth.”
Updates to the state’s Environmental Justice Policy include:
- Directing energy and environmental agencies to consider impacts of climate change on Environmental Justice Communities and work collaboratively with other agencies and Secretariats on these issues;
- Updating a criteria component that determines an Environmental Justice population to 25 percent of households within a census block at or below 65 percent of the statewide median income;
- Creating a secondary vulnerable health screening process for Environmental Justice populations as a site specific tool that takes into account a set of selected health indicators, such as elevated emergency department visits for childhood asthmas, elevated childhood blood lead levels, low birth rates; and elevated hospitalizations for myocardial infarction;
- Working with EEA Secretariat wide agencies to ensure compliance with ANF Bulletin #16, which requires Language Access Plans for each Department and determining the type of translation and interpreter services that will be available throughout the Secretariat;
- Developing an annual Environmental Justice report detailing ways in which environmental justice criteria were used for awarding grants and prioritizing program funding for the prior fiscal year; and,
- Convening an annual public meeting to report on the progress of the Environmental Justice Policy.
Additional information regarding the Environmental Justice Policy can be found by visiting EEA’s website.
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