Executive Order 12898: Environmental Justice

Executive Order 12898 states that “…each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission 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…” This order, signed by President Clinton in 1994, was followed by several United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Federal Highway Administration Orders that established procedures for implementation. In May 2012, USDOT issued an update to the Final Environmental Justice Order, DOT Order 5610.2(a).

When It Is Required

This order applies to all federal actions, including projects that receive federal permits or federal funding.

Permit or Approval Process

There is no application or permit process for EO 12898. Typically, demonstration of compliance with EO 12898 is included as part of a NEPA document. FHWA has provided guidance for implementing the updated Environmental Justice Order (June, 2012) on their website (EJ at DOT) and states there that additional guidance is forthcoming. Under the current guidance, the process should include:

  • Identifying minority and low-income populations. The Vermont Center for Geographic Information (VCGI) and the US Census FactFinder both provide US Census information for this purpose.

  • Providing opportunities for participation and comment by potentially affected communities.

  • Assessing if there are Environmental Justice adverse effects, i.e., if there are disproportionately high impacts to minority and low income populations. Adverse effects are defined in DOT Order 5610.2(a) as:

    • bodily impairment, infirmity, illness or death;

    • air, noise, and water pollution and soil contamination;

    • destruction or disruption of man-made or natural resources;

    • destruction or diminution of aesthetic values;

    • destruction or disruption of community cohesion or a community's economic vitality;

    • destruction or disruption of the availability of public and private facilities and services;

    • vibration;

    • adverse employment effects;

    • displacement of persons, businesses, farms, or nonprofit organizations;

    • increased traffic congestion, isolation, exclusion or separation of minority or low-income individuals within a given community or from the broader community; and

    • the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of, benefits of DOT programs, policies, or activities.Identify practicable alternatives or mitigation.

  • Implement mitigation. FHWA provides no specific guidance as to what form mitigation might take.

Related Regulations

Regulatory programs with overlapping jurisdiction with Executive Order 12898 include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – prevents discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funds.

For More Information

FHWA - Vermont Division

87 State Street

Suite 216

Montpelier, VT 05602

(802) 828-4423


FHWA Order 5610.2(a)


US Census Bureau FactFinder