Issue Brief: Environmental Justice Act


ASLA is committed to the principles of environmental justice and supports legislation that enshrines these principles into law.


Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, education level, or income with regard to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. On February 16, 1994, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12898- Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.

This executive order directed federal agencies to identify and address the disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental effects of agency actions on low-income and minority communities to the greatest extent possible permitted by law. The executive order directs agencies to develop a strategy and implementation plan for environmental justice. President Clinton also created an interagency working group on environmental justice.

However, executive orders can be repealed at any time by the sitting president. Community planners, design professionals, environmental justice activists, and others advocate for this executive order to become codified into law to ensure that future presidents do not have the unilateral ability to rescind the environmental justice directives that federal agencies implement for the protection of all.

Bill Summary

Senator Cory Booker (NJ) introduced S. 2236, The Environmental Justice Act, in the U.S. Senate. Representative Raul Ruiz (CA) introduced a companion bill, H.R. 3923, in the House of Representatives.

This legislation echoes Executive Order 12898 by calling on federal agencies to address and eliminate the disproportionate environmental and human health impacts on low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, and other peoples. It does so by instructing federal agencies to create and adopt rules and regulations to promote environmental justice. It would require federal agencies to provide affected communities with information regarding human health and the environment, as well as allowing the communities input and participation in the decision-making processes.

The legislation would create an interagency working group composed of the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 11 cabinet officials, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, various presidential appointees, and special advisers to the president. The working group would be tasked with providing guidance to federal agencies on identifying disproportionately high and adverse human health and/or environmental effects.

Recent Action

On July 24, 2019, Senator Cory Booker (NJ) introduced S. 2236, The Environmental Justice Act.

On August 15, 2019, Representative Raul Ruiz (AZ) introduced H.R. 3923, The Environmental Justice Act.


S. 2236, Senator Cory Booker (NJ) and cosponsors.

H.R. 3923, Representative Raul Ruiz (AZ) and cosponsors.


Roxanne Blackwell, 
Esq., Hon. ASLA,
Director of Federal
Government Affairs

Elizabeth Hebron,
Director of State
Government Affairs