Too often communities that are most severely and frequently impacted by environmental health hazards in the state have lacked clear and effective mechanisms for addressing environmental injustice. The council provides a forum that can bring forward the voices of these disproportionately impacted communities to inform the state’s environmental justice efforts.
Purpose and Responsibilities
The Environmental Justice Council’s purpose is to advise state agencies on incorporating environmental justice into agency activities. Specific council duties included are to:
- Provide recommendations to the state on implementing environmental justice requirements such as environmental justice assessments, community engagement plans, and strategic plans.
- Develop guidance on identifying overburdened communities and the use of the environmental health disparities map.
- Track progress toward increasing health equity and ensuring environmental justice throughout Washington.
- Provide recommendations on the development and implementation of climate programs, including programs funded from carbon revenues.
- Serve as a forum for environmental justice concerns and priorities.
- Provide recommendations to the governor and legislature on actions that advance environmental justice.
Seven Washington State agencies that develop policies and programs that most directly impact environmental justice must comply with the HEAL Act:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Ecology
- Department of Health
- Department of Natural Resources
- Department of Transportation
- Puget Sound Partnership
Other state agencies can also voluntarily comply with the HEAL Act.
Chapter 70A.02 RCW was signed into law on May 17, 2021. It directs the Department of Health to convene and staff an Environmental Justice Council. The law outlines the council’s membership, duties, and reporting requirements to the Legislature.
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. Those interested in being considered for appointment to serve on the council may apply on the Governor’s Boards and Commissions website. One executive level person from each covered agency will serve as non-voting liaisons to the council.