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Title VI and the Interagency Working Group


On February 11, 1994, Executive Order 12898 (PDF) (6 pp, 123K)was issued to direct Federal agencies to incorporate achieving environmental justice into their mission. Accompanying that Executive Order was a Presidential Memorandum (PDF) (2 pp, 47K) stating, in part,

In accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, each Federal agency shall ensure that all programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance that affect human health or the environment do not directly, or through contractual or other arrangements, use criteria, methods, or practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

With that directive in mind, in August 2011 the Environmental Justice IWG established a Title VI Committee to address the intersection of agencies' environmental justice efforts with their Title VI enforcement and compliance responsibilities.

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How are EJ and Title VI different?

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance (states, grantees, etc.) from discriminating based on race, color, or national origin in any program or activity.

Executive Order 12898, on the other hand, directs federal agencies to identify and address, as appropriate, disproportionally high adverse human health and environmental effects of their programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.

However, a Title VI civil rights complaint may raise environmental justice issues when challenging a recipient's activity. For instance, if a state agency receives funds from EPA to run a clean air program, that state recipient is legally prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin under Title VI when engaging in clean air enforcement activities. The EPA, in complying with Executive Order 12898, can also ensure the programs it funds consider disproportionately high adverse human health and environmental effects on minority and low income populations.

For more information of the differences and similarities, see the comparison chart (PDF) (3 pp, 452K).

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What are the responsibilities of the EJ IWG Title VI Committee?

The Title VI Committee of the Environmental Justice IWG will provide resources to federal agencies and the public with the goal of creating broad understanding of how the legal requirements of Title VI and its implementing regulations can effectuate the goals of Executive Order 12898.

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Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races [colors, and national origins] contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial [color or national origin] discrimination. President John F. Kennedy, 1963


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