Title VI Program: Environmental Justice FAQs
The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) encourages integrating the goals of environmental justice into existing operations to ensure that consideration of environmental justice principles is an integral part of all programs, policies, and activities – from the planning process through to project completion. These principles have been integrated into MnDOT’s Title VI Program, further explained below.
Per USDOT’s environmental justice strategy, “environmental justice” is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, national origin, or educational level with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.
Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, was signed by President Clinton in February 1994. The Executive Order stated that, to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law, each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority and low-income populations. In accordance with the Executive Order, USDOT and FHWA issued Orders on environmental justice, DOT Order 5610.2(a) and FHWA Order 6640.23A, and FTA issued policy guidance through an Environmental Justice Circular: FTA C 4703.1.
The environmental justice Orders and Circular set forth steps to prevent disproportionately high and adverse effects to minority or low-income populations not only through environmental analyses conducted as part of Federal transportation planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) provisions, but also through Title VI analyses. Title VI is a federal law that protects individuals and groups from discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. The specific text of Title VI law (42 U.S.C. § 2000d) states: "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."
MnDOT’s Title VI Program Policy is an expanded policy against discrimination and includes additional protected classes. Failure to fairly treat and meaningfully include environmental justice populations in MnDOT programs and activities may be a form of discrimination. MnDOT’s Title VI Program Policy states:
MnDOT is committed to ensuring that no person in the State of Minnesota, on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, or income status is excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise is subjected to discrimination under any and all programs, services, or activities administered by the department, its recipients, subrecipients, and contractors. Additionally, MnDOT is committed to ensuring that its programs incorporate access for people with Limited English Proficiency.
Together, Title VI, environmental justice, and other nondiscrimination authorities protect diverse segments of the population from bearing disproportionate burdensome impacts resulting from the transportation decision-making process. MnDOT’s Title VI Program aims to provide inclusive processes that require consideration of historically disadvantaged persons and groups in all MnDOT programs and activities.
Frequently asked questions
Who Must Comply with MnDOT’s Title VI Program Policy, Including the Protections to Environmental Justice Populations?
MnDOT as the primary recipient of federal financial assistance and subrecipients, such as cities, counties and grantees that receive federal financial assistance through MnDOT.
Which Offices are Responsible for Environmental Justice Activities within MnDOT?
MnDOT’s Title VI Program ensures that environmental justice populations are not excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise subjected to discrimination within any MnDOT program or activity. The Title VI Program is managed and administered within the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in MnDOT’s Central Office location; however, responsibilities under Title VI, inclusive of environmental justice analyses and documentation, are carried out by various offices and districts throughout the agency.
The Title VI Program is supervised by Kim Collins, MnDOT OCR Director. The Title VI Program Coordinator is Jonica Carr.
MnDOT OCR Director
Title VI Coordinator
MnDOT Office of Civil Rights
MnDOT’s Office of Environmental Stewardship ensures there is equity and fairness in the planning phases of projects through conducting analyses of the environmental impacts on minority and low-income populations. Debra Moynihan is the Environmental Assessment Supervisor and contact for environmental justice-related questions during these phases.
Environmental Assessment Supervisor
What is the Scope of Coverage of Title VI and Environmental Justice within MnDOT?
The Title VI Program, inclusive of protections for environmental justice populations, prohibits discrimination in all MnDOT programs and activities regardless of their funding source.
What are the Fundamental Concepts of Environmental Justice?
- Identifying and evaluating environmental, public health, and interrelated social and economic effects of DOT programs, policies, and activities;
- Proposing measures to avoid, minimize and/or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse environmental and public health effects and interrelated social and economic effects, and providing offsetting benefits and opportunities to enhance communities, neighborhoods, and individuals affected by DOT programs, policies, and activities, where permitted by law and consistent with the Executive Order;
- Considering alternatives to proposed programs, policies, and activities, where such alternatives would result in avoiding and/or minimizing disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental impacts, consistent with the Executive Order; and
- Eliciting public involvement opportunities and considering the results thereof, including soliciting input from affected minority and low-income populations in considering alternatives.
What Population Groups are Included in Environmental Justice Populations?
Minority and low-income populations.
What is a Low-Income Population?
Low-Income means a person whose median household income is at or below the Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines.
Low-Income Population means (1) any readily identifiable group of low-income persons who live in geographic proximity, or (2) geographically dispersed/transient persons (such as migrant workers or Native Americans) who will be similarly affected by a proposed DOT program, policy or activity.
What is a Minority Population?
Minority means a person who is:
- Black: having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa;
- Hispanic or Latino: of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race;
- Asian American: having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent;
- American Indian and Alaskan Native: having origins in any of the original people of North America, South America (including Central America), and maintaining cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition; or
- Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander: having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
Minority Population means (1) any readily identifiable groups of minority persons who live in geographic proximity, or (2) geographically dispersed/transient persons (such as migrant workers or Native Americans) who will be similarly affected by a proposed DOT program, policy or activity.
How Large Must the Minority or Low-Income Population be in Order to Consider Environmental Justice?
Disproportionately high and adverse effects, not population size, are the bases for environmental justice. A very small minority or low-income population in the project, study, or planning area does not eliminate the possibility of a disproportionately high and adverse effect on these populations. It is important to consider the comparative impact of an action among different population groups (e.g. non-minority populations).
Source and for more information: FTA Environmental Justice Circular
What is an Adverse Effect?
Adverse effect means the totality of significant individual or cumulative human health or environmental effects, including social and economic effects, such as bodily impairment, infirmity, illness or death; air, noise, water pollution and soil contamination; adverse employment effects; increased traffic congestion, isolation, exclusion or separation of minority or low-income individuals within a given community or from the broader community; the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits of DOT programs, policies, or activities; etc.
For more information and examples of adverse effects, see Department of Transportation Order 5610.2(a).
What is a Disproportionately High and Adverse Effect on Minority and Low-Income Populations?
An adverse effect that:
- Is predominately borne by a minority population and/or a low-income population, or
- Will be suffered by the minority population and/or low-income population and is appreciably more severe or greater in magnitude than the adverse effect that will be suffered by the non-minority population and/or non-low-income population.
How Does MnDOT Support Environmental Justice?
MnDOT supports environmental justice through every stage of its planning, construction and maintenance processes. This ensures MnDOT gains input from the community that will help shape how MnDOT builds and maintains roads, bridges, regional airports, rail lines, ports and trails that are critical to connecting us to our destinations. This is done by working to:
- Avoid, minimize or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority and low-income populations;
- Ensure full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process; and
- Prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income populations.
Source and more information: MnDOT's Environmental Justice Webpage
How Early Should Environmental Justice Concerns be Addressed?
It is important to provide meaningful opportunities for public involvement by environmental justice populations during the planning and development of programs, policies, and activities. Early planning activities are a critical means to avoiding disproportionately high and adverse effects.
How Are Title VI and Environmental Justice Different?
Title VI is a statutory and regulatory requirement, whereas the authority for environmental justice comes from an Executive Order. Title VI is a key tool for agencies to use to achieve environmental justice goals, however it is broader in scope than environmental justice. Title VI applies to all Federally funded projects and activities, not solely those which may have adverse human health or environmental effects on communities, as with environmental justice. Moreover, Title VI law does not include low-income populations.
Note that MnDOT’s Title VI Program has an expanded policy against discrimination and does include protections for environmental justice populations. This means that environmental justice populations cannot be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or otherwise discriminated against in any MnDOT program or activity, regardless of whether an adverse human health or environmental effect is found to exist.
For a summary of the key differences and similarities between environmental justice and Title VI, see page 4 of FTA’s Environmental Justice Circular and FHWA’s Environmental Justice website. See also: Department of Transportation Order 5610.2(a) and FHWA Order 6640.23A.
How Do Title VI and Environmental Justice Interact?
The goal of ensuring that programs, policies, and other activities do not have a disproportionately high and adverse effect on minority or low-income populations is to be achieved, in part, by implementing both Title VI and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analyses during the development and implementation of transportation activities. One way of achieving the overarching objective of environmental justice–a fair distribution of benefits and burdens associated with Federal programs, policies, and activities–is to enforce Title VI and nondiscrimination laws and policies.
For a summary of the key differences and similarities between environmental justice and Title VI, see page 4 of FTA’s Environmental Justice Circular. See also DOT Order 5610.2(a) (environmental justice) which clarifies and reinforces Title VI responsibilities.
Where Can I Find More Information About Environmental Justice and Title VI?
- Code of Federal Regulations: 23 CFR 200 and 49 CFR 21 (Title VI), 23 CFR 450 (Planning), 42 USC 4321 (NEPA)
MnDOT Title VI Program Umbrella