“The air we breathe, the water we drink and
recreate in, and the land we work and live on
must be safe for all Oregonians. Environmental
Justice is at the heart of protecting those who
may not be represented in environmental and
public health decision making. Having a solid
Environmental Justice framework at DEQ will
ensure we are making decisions that protect all
-Dick Pedersen, Oregon DEQ Director
Environmental justice is “the principle
that all people have the right to clean air, clean water,
and clean land, and that those potentially affected by
environmental decisions should have a meaningful say in the
decision making process regardless of race, income, or
-Hastings Public Law Research Institute
Environmental Justice is the fair
treatment and meaningful involvement of all people
regardless of race, color, national origin, culture,
education or income with respect to the development,
implementation and enforcement of environmental laws,
regulations and policies.
Fair treatment means that no group of
people, including racial, ethnic or socioeconomic
groups, should bear a disproportionate share of the
negative environmental consequences resulting from
industrial, municipal and commercial operations or the
execution of federal, state, local and tribal
environmental programs and policies.
Meaningful involvement means that (1)
potentially affected community residents have an
appropriate opportunity to participate in decisions
about a proposed activity that will affect their
environment or health; (2) the public's contribution can
influence the agency's decision; (3) the concerns of all
participants involved will be considered in the
decision-making process; and (4) the decision-makers
seek out and facilitate the involvement of those
Environmental justice is achieved when
everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from
environmental and health hazards and equal access to the
decision-making process to have a healthy environment in
which to live, work, learn and play.
is committed to the principles of environmental justice and
to ensuring that the agency’s actions – including
permitting, cleanup, policy and planning, outreach and
education, and compliance and enforcement – address the
interests of Oregon communities, especially minority,
low-income and other traditionally underrepresented
communities, as much as state and federal laws allow.
DEQ adopted an Environmental Justice policy in 1997 to
guide the agency’s work, including principles for making
environmental equity inherent in the way DEQ does business.
Some recent DEQ actions to ensure environmental justice
with local environmental justice groups and others to
reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality to
protect those most at risk from air pollution.
stronger relationships with tribal nations to
understand the impact of DEQ's actions on tribal
communities and lands.
Working with the Confederated Tribes
of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, other tribal nations
and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to
strengthen protections for people who eat fish from
Oregon waters by increasing the
"fish consumption rate" in state water quality
Participating in a
collaborative partnership to improve the
environmental health of
nail salon workers and customers, many of whom are
Vietnamese and African American, through education and
Cleaning up contaminated lands around
the state that pose risks to people’s health, many of
which exist in low-income and minority communities.
Developing partnerships with the
Oregon Public Health Division, especially to provide
information about environmental health to the people who
might not be familiar with DEQ’s work.
Creating opportunities for citizens
to share their comments and concerns directly with the
Environmental Quality Commission when they hold
meetings around the state.
more examples of environmental justice at DEQ, see the
summary of environmental justice activities at DEQ
(PDF). Compiled in November 2007, this summary provides
“stories from the field” about DEQ’s work to address
environmental justice issues statewide.
To augment these efforts, DEQ is now:
- Designating an Environmental Justice Coordinator and
citizen advocate to help ensure the meaningful
involvement of all potentially affected communities in
DEQ’s work and the protection of their interests in
- Working to enhance public participation in the
agency’s actions and ensure the involvement of people
who may be affected, as directed by Senate Bill 420
passed by the 2007 Legislature.
In addition, some of our goals include:
- Increasing outreach to Spanish-speaking communities in the
Portland-Metro area with recommendations from a 2006 DEQ study that
assessed the ways in which Latino communities receive and perceive
- Providing multi-lingual fact sheets and translation services to
non-English speaking communities, including DEQ programs for vehicle
inspection, dry cleaners, open burning, asbestos and emergency
- Providing training for DEQ employees to raise awareness about
environmental justice issues and what each employee can do to help
ensure environmental equity in DEQ’s work.
- Building a more diverse workforce within DEQ to ensure better
sensitivity to Oregon’s diverse communities.
The Environmental Protection Agency has a mapping tool, EJView, that
allows users to create maps and generate detailed reports based on the
geographic areas and data sets they choose. The tool can be found
If you have information to share about how DEQ’s actions and
decisions affect Oregon communities, or if you have questions or
concerns related to environmental justice issues, please contact
DEQ’s Environmental Justice Coordinator and citizen advocate,
Christine Svetkovich. Christine can be reached via e-mail
or by phone at 503-725-2180 or 1-800-452-4011.