The state of Virginia will add a key component to its ongoing environmental justice effort.
As part of the state’s efforts to improve its track record on environmental justice, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality plans to hire a new environmental justice director early this year.
Hiring a director to oversee a broader Office of Environmental Justice is the first such hire in the history of the state and the first in a series of initiatives the DEQ plans to undertake in the coming years.
Those initiatives are being guided by an independent analysis of how the agency could better integrate environmental justice into its planning and programs.
To prepare their 47-page analysis, the Charlottesville-based Skeo Solutions and Washington, D.C.-based Metropolitan Group conducted interviews with stakeholders ranging from companies regulated by the DEQ to groups typically underrepresented in permitting processes.
The recently released report comes at a time when Virginia legislators have taken considerable actions on environmental justice.
In a session that ended early this year, the Virginia General Assembly approved a statutory definition of environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, faith, national origin or income, regarding the development, implementation or enforcement of any environmental law, regulation or policy.”
In addition to integrating that language into DEQ policy, state legislators also have passed the Virginia Environmental Justice Act and created a Council of Environmental Justice to advise both the governor and an interagency work group focused on advancing the effort.