Since the inception of the Governor’s Environmental Justice Taskforce in 2019, Commerce has been involved in advancing the state’s initiatives aimed at addressing environmental injustices.
With a broad scope of over 100 programs, Commerce has a unique opportunity to create transformative change. Improving the health conditions for people of color, indigenous individuals and communities, and low-income people who continue to be disproportionately harmed by environmental and health hazards is essential to advancing Commerce’s mission of strengthening communities.
Healthy Environment for All (HEAL)
Washington’s environmental justice law, introduced as the Healthy Environment for All Act (HEAL), passed in 2021. Now in statute, Chapter 70A.02 RCW provides a roadmap for integrating environmental justice into state agencies.
Commerce is one of seven agencies, along with the state departments of Health, Agriculture, Ecology, Natural Resources, and Transportation; and Puget Sound Partnership, required to:
- Adopt a community engagement plan that centers on environmental justice (EJ) by July 1, 2022
- Incorporate EJ into our strategic plan by January 1, 2023
- Develop a Tribal consultation framework
- Prioritize EJ in budget and funding decisions starting July 1, 2023
- Conduct EJ assessments for Significant Agency Actions starting July 1, 2023
Commerce recognizes that systems of environmental neglect cannot change without direct involvement from communities that have borne the weight of disparities. We are committed to a strong partnership with the Environmental Justice Council (Council) as we integrate environmental justice into agency activities.
Commerce is publishing draft work products as part of its goal to balance the interests and obligations to the Council, the Legislature and the people of Washington. These products will undergo further review by the Council, tribes and the public throughout 2023.
What is Environmental Justice? The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, rules, and policies.
Further, Environmental justice includes addressing disproportionate environmental and health impacts in all laws, rules, and policies with environmental impacts by prioritizing vulnerable populations and overburdened communities, the equitable distribution of resources and benefits, and eliminating harm.
Environmental Justice Principles
The Environmental Justice Task Force developed five key principles to serve as a shared vision of environmental justice in Washington State. Further explanation of these principles can be found in the Environmental Justice Task Force: Recommendations for Prioritizing EJ in Washington State Government (October 2020) (PDF).
- Achieve the highest attainable environmental quality and health outcomes for all people
- Adopt a racial justice lens
- Engage community meaningfully
- Be transparent
- Be accountable
Environmental Justice Council
The law also created an Environmental Justice Council to provide recommendations and guidance to state agencies on incorporating environmental justice into agency activities. The council consists of 16 members appointed by the governor. Council membership includes seats for community representatives, a youth community representative, environmental justice practitioners, tribes, labor and business.