Environmental Justice

This page provides technical guidance to project teams for complying with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Environmental Justice (EJ) requirements during NEPA review at all project levels (EIS, EA, CE). This page also contains information useful to staff in other Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) programs as they identify and engage EJ communities.

Identifying and engaging Environmental Justice populations, defined as low income, minority, and low-literacy and limited-English-proficiency, helps guarantee their fair treatment and access to meaningful involvement in the transportation decision-making process.

Before you start

Read Chapter 458: Social and Community Effects of the Environmental Manual to learn more about considerations we take to assess social, economic, community, equity, and relocation impacts during the project development process.

Our commitment to inclusive community engagement

Read WSDOT’s Community Engagement Plan (pdf 2.1 mb) to learn how we engage with partners, stakeholders, tribes, and communities for all WSDOT efforts.

WSDOT Secretary, Roger Millar, speaking about Inclusion and Environmental Justice.

WSDOT staff should take the on-line EJ overview training through on our Environmental training webpage.  

The EJ Analysis Process by NEPA Classification

All projects are required to conduct an Environmental Justice analysis as a part of the NEPA review process.

To ensure full inclusion, project teams should coordinate with Office of Equal Opportunity (OEO) and region/modal communications staff to develop an inclusive public involvement strategy tailored to the communities who may be touched by the project.

For Categorically Excluded Projects

Follow this process for Categorically Excluded (CE) level projects to ensure compliance with Environmental Justice requirements.

Refer to the EJ evaluation process flowchart (pdf 109 kb) for an overview of the Environmental Justice analysis process for CEs. Follow the steps below to complete the analysis.

If you are a local agency, use Local Programs Environmental Classification Summary Guidebook (pdf 7.5 mb) Appendix M matrix to determine what analysis and level of documentation is appropriate for their project.

 1. Determine if your project is considered unlikely to adversely affect social resources.

 1. Use our list of Projects Exempt from Detailed Analysis (pdf 97 kb).


 2. Fish Passage projects are not exempt from detailed EJ analysis. See our guidance on EJ Analysis for Fish Passage Projects (pdf 431 kb) and use the Fish Passage letter to file template (docx 40 kb) to document your analysis.

 2. Begin collection of demographic data for your project site.

 Use the two FHWA approved websites:


 1. EJScreen website to find demographic data through a map interface maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency. See the step by step guidance for EJScreen (pdf 598 kb) and video training.


 2. Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) website as a secondary data source to verify the demographic data collected on EJScreen. See the step by step guidance for OSPI (pdf 73 kb).

3. Determine the level of documentation needed for your project.


 1. Follow Using Demographic Data in the EJ Decision Matrix (pdf 127 kb) to complete a Decision Matrix (pdf 116 kb).


 2. Use How to Read EJScreen and OSPI Reports (pdf 197 kb) to assist with creating a Decision Matrix and an EJ letter to file.

 4. Define and document project effects on EJ populations.

 5. Identify if a Limited English Proficiency (LEP) population exists within project area.



 1. See our guidance for Determining Project Effects on EJ Populations (pdf 162 kb).


 2. Refer to Using Demographic Data to Complete the EJ Letter to File (pdf 145 kb) to assist with creating a letter to file (docx 33 kb). Use the Required "No Effect" wording (pdf 57 kb) in your report if your project has no effect on EJ populations.


 3. Follow Using Demographic Data for LEP Determination (pdf 114 kb).

 If the entire LEP population is either minority or low-income, include this information in the main discussion of your report.

 If the LEP population is not minority or low-income, include a summary in your report.


 4. Visit the LEP webpage for more information on accommodating non-English speakers.

For Environmental Assessment and Environmental Impact Statement (EA/EIS) Level Projects

The project team should:

 1. Define, describe and rationalize the project’s study area.

 1. Follow the steps outlined in this study area (pdf 105 kb) process.

 2.  Collect demographic data.

 1. Follow this procedure for Demographic Data Collection (pdf 142 kb). Use resources from the Categorical Exclusion outlined above.

 3. Create a plan for engaging with EJ populations.

 1. Follow the Public Involvement Plan (pdf 176 kb) to help describe how the EJ population views the   project.

 4. Determine the level of documentation needed for the project.


 1. In some cases, when the issue is complex and has significant impacts, you may need an EJ Discipline Report (pdf 50 kb).

 Otherwise, write to the environmental document itself.

 5. Determine methodology to ensure outreach strategies are   reaching the identified disadvantaged populations.

 Methodology should include how the project team plans to:

 1. Identify and document the potential benefits, effects, and mitigation of each alternative. Consider:

 How construction and operation potentially adversely affect these populations.

 How construction and operation specifically benefit these populations.

 Any reasonable and feasible measures to avoid or minimize high and adverse disproportionate effects.

 Any project benefits that would affect low-income or minority populations as a part of the general public.

 How will WSDOT modify the project to avoid or minimize is proportionately high and adverse effects?


 2. Determine whether an effect falls disproportionately on low-income or minority populations by applying two criteria:

 Minority and/or low-income populations will bear a disproportionately high and adverse impact, or

 The severity of the adverse impact is appreciably greater for minority and/or low-income populations than for the general population.


 3. Consider cumulative impacts of the project in combination with other current and future projects. Examine other discipline reports or sections of EAs/EISs to understand project direct and indirect effects.

 6. Include a copy of the Public Involvement Plan and a summary of the strategies and outcomes of the inclusive public   involvement.


Reviewers should use the EJ Discipline Report Checklist (pdf 32 kb) during their review.

Does your project involve tolling? Contact Carol Lee Roalkvam, Carollee.Roalkvam@wsdot.wa.gov, to determine the appropriate action. Also, refer to FHWA’s Guidebook for State, Regional, and Local Governments on Addressing Potential Equity Impacts of Road Pricing.

Do you have or suspect homeless encampments on your project? Work with your Region Environmental Office and the Office of Equal Opportunity to develop the list of advocacy groups.

External Guidance                

Work with the federal lead agency to follow appropriate guidance. Most common leads are FHWA and FTA.