Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on November 11, 2022
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on June 9, 2023
Approved by the Board of Directors on
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) strongly encourages:
- Incorporating Environmental Justice (EJ) principles in all infrastructure work.
- Policy makers consider EJ along with economic and environmental considerations when championing and funding infrastructure projects.
- Developing guidance documents on the incorporation of EJ in the selection, design, implementation, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of infrastructure projects.
- Fair treatment of all groups of people impacted by infrastructure decisions so that no group bears a disproportional share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from the infrastructure project.
- Recommitment to the fair treatment of all groups of people, as written in ASCE’s Code of Ethics and Policy Statement 417.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines EJ as 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, regulations, and policies. Additionally, EPA states that the goal of EJ will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.
Civil engineers have built many beneficial works for our communities including safe highways, structures, and drinking water facilities that have helped communities in the United States (U.S.) and around the World. These works improve a community’s quality of life, with positive impacts on health, social stability, and economic opportunity. However, all infrastructure projects, regardless of the benefit they provide, are associated with varying environmental, economic, and social impacts. Historically, many of these beneficial projects have resulted in groups of people bearing a disproportionate share of the negative environmental and health consequences of these projects.
Infrastructure, in the form of civil works, is the foundation upon which society is built. Historically, infrastructure design decisions have been based upon economic considerations and more recently upon environmental impacts. Basing infrastructure project decisions primarily upon economic, environmental, and political considerations has resulted in instances where specific groups are negatively impacted by the project that was intended to provide benefit to the community as a whole. The civil engineering profession recognizes that past practices for the planning, design, construction, and operation of infrastructure projects have resulted in the concentration of negative impacts to economically and socially disadvantaged groups within communities, Moving forward, consideration of human welfare and protecting and enhancing the quality of life in historically disadvantaged communities, in the form of EJ should be a major consideration in infrastructure design and policy decisions.
Incorporating EJ principals in the planning and design of infrastructure projects allows a broader view of the needs, wants, traditions, and values of the community the infrastructure project will impact. Incorporating this knowledge into the infrastructure design, construction, and operation can help create more sustainable, resilient projects while minimizing negative impacts on the community. Civil engineers can promote meaningful involvement in infrastructure projects through:
- Allowing people the opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health.
- Incorporating community concerns in the infrastructure decision making process.
- Seeking out and facilitating the involvement of groups of people potentially affected by infrastructure activity.
As the civil engineering industry moves forward with designing, building, repairing, and upgrading the U.S.’s infrastructure, it is important to emphasize three items to ensure EJ principals are met: that negative environmental and health impacts are not disproportionality borne by historically disadvantaged groups within the community; that infrastructure spending benefits all people; and that where possible, we renovate previously built infrastructure projects to mitigate and remedy the harm caused to communities from past practices.
ASCE Policy Statement 570
First Approved in 2023