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 (PDF) that centers on environmental justice (EJ) by July 1, 2022
- Incorporate EJ into our strategic plan (PDF) by January 1, 2023
- Develop a Tribal consultation framework
- Prioritize EJ in budget and funding decisions (PDF) starting July 1, 2023
- Conduct EJ assessments for Significant Agency Actions starting July 1, 2023
One of the core elements of the HEAL Act requires covered agencies to conduct environmental justice assessments on significant agency actions beginning July 1, 2023. The HEAL Act requires agencies to perform environmental justice assessments for specific covered activities, termed “Significant Agency Action.” Significant Agency Action (SAA) is statutorily defined in RCW 70A.02.010 as:
- Developing significant legislative rules as defined in RCW 34.05.328;
- Developing or adopting any new grant or loan programs
- Designing or awarding capital projects, grants, or loans of at least $12M or more
- Developing agency request legislation
- Any other agency actions deemed significant by Commerce
Additional Significant Agency Action for Commerce
Agencies are authorized to designate additional SAA’s, as actions that may cause environmental harm or may affect the equitable distribution of environmental benefits to an overburdened community or a vulnerable population. Any additional SAA’s must be determined by agencies no later than July 1, 2023, however actions under category (e) will not be subject to environmental justice assessments until July 1, 2025.
Log of Commerce Significant Agency Actions and EJ Assessments
To access the regularly updated list of significant agency actions please visit please visit the Significant Agency Actions and Environmental Justice Assessments Dashboard (on Smartsheet).
Draft EJ assessments that are open for public comment are listed in the SEEP Buy Clean Buy Fair ARL (on Smartsheet).
News and Updates
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.
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.