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Title VI and Environmental Justice at EPA

In July 1964 Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (PDF) (13 pp, 23K, About PDF) Title VI of the Civil Rights Act states that "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

In February 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898, "Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations." In a separate memorandum, President Clinton identified Title VI as one of several federal laws already in existence that can help "to prevent minority communities and low-income communities from being subject to disproportionately high and adverse environmental effects."

There are several basic differences between EPA's responsibilities under Title VI and under Executive Order 12898:

Title VI

  1. Title VI prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance (e.g., states, universities, local governments) from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin in their programs or activities.
  2. Title VI is a federal law that applies to federal financial assistance recipients (i.e., persons or entities that receive EPA financial assistance) and not to EPA itself as the Executive Order does.
  3. Title VI allows persons to file administrative complaints with the federal departments and agencies that provide financial assistance alleging discrimination based on race, color, or national origin by recipients of federal funds.
  4. Under Title VI, EPA has a responsibility to ensure that its funds are not being used to subsidize discrimination based on race, color, or national origin. This prohibition against discrimination under Title VI has been a statutory mandate since 1964 and EPA has had Title VI regulations since 1973.
  5. EPA's Office of Civil Rights is responsible for the Agency's administration of Title VI, including investigation of such complaints.

Executive Order 12898

  1. Executive Order 12898 generally calls on each federal agency to achieve "environmental justice ... 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...."
  2. Executive Order 12898 applies to federal agency actions, including EPA's, and directs agencies, to the extent permitted by law, to identify and address, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects on minority populations and low-income populations.
  3. Executive Order 12898 is a directive from the President of the United States to federal agencies intended to improve the internal management of the federal government.
  4. The Executive Order establishes the Administration's policy on environmental justice; it is not enforceable in court and does not create any rights or remedies.
  5. EPA's Office of Environmental Justice works to ensure that EPA's actions are in compliance with the Executive Order.