There are a variety of elements that make up the 2040 RTP, including the 2040 Regional Transit Element (RTE), the 2015 Congestion Management Process (CMP), and the 2013 NFRMPO Bike Plan. Additionally, Environmental Justice (EJ) and Environmental Mitigation (EM) analyses were conducted to ensure no single group or environmental feature was negatively impacted more than another.
Environmental Justice (EJ)
Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice (EJ) in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations (1994), was enacted to reinforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act states that, “no person in the United States shall, on grounds of race, color, or national origin be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Executive Order 12898 also states, “each Federal agency shall make achieving environmental justice part of its mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of its programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations.”
In May 2012, USDOT issued an update to Order 5610.2(a), Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority and Low-Income Populations. The DOT order updates the original EJ order, which was published on April 15, 1997. The DOT order continues to be a key component in the promotion of EJ principles in all DOT programs, policies, and activities. The NFRMPO’s EJ process follows three guiding principles outlined in the DOT Order:
- To avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects, including social and economic effects, on minority and low-income populations in relation to transportation improvements.
- To ensure the full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process.
- To prevent the denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority and low-income populations.
Under USDOT Order 5610.2(a), an adverse effect is defined as:
- Bodily impairment, infirmity, illness, or death;
- Air, noise, and water pollution and soil contamination;
- Destruction or disruption of man-made or natural resources;
- Destruction or disruption of aesthetic values;
- Destruction or disruption of community cohesion or a community’s economic vitality;
- Destruction or disruption of the availability of public and private facilities and services;
- Displacement of persons, businesses, farms, or non-profit organizations;
- Increased traffic congestion, isolation, exclusion, or separation of individuals within a given community or from a broader community; or
- Denial of, reduction in, or significant delay in the receipt of benefits of DOT programs, policies, or activities.
The NFRMPO EJ process also includes a determination of whether a construction-related activity on the existing transportation system will result in a “disproportionately high and adverse effect on human health or the environment,” which is defined by Order 5610.2(a) as:
- Being predominantly borne by a minority and/or low-income population or
- Suffered by the minority and/or low-income population and is appreciably more severe or greater in magnitude than the adverse effect that will be suffered by the non-minority and/or non-low-income populations.
It is important to identify where significant numbers of minority and low-income households are located within the region to comply with the requirements of Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority and Low-Income Populations, and DOT Order 5610.2(a). These orders were enacted to ensure the full and fair participation of potentially affected communities in transportation decisions. The intent of EJ is to avoid, minimize, or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse impacts on minority populations and low-income populations.
The NFRMPO uses CDOT’s Environmental Justice in Colorado’s Statewide and Regional Planning Process Guidebook, as the framework for addressing EJ in the region.
Much progress has been made in mitigating transportation’s effects on the environment. According to 23 CFR §450.104, environmental mitigation activities are “policies, programs, actions, and activities that, over time, will serve to avoid, minimize, or compensate for (by replacing or providing substitute resources) the impacts to or disruption of elements of the human and natural environment associated with the implementation of a long-range statewide transportation plan or metropolitan transportation plan.” Mitigation efforts should benefit neighborhoods and communities, cultural resources, parks and recreation areas, wetlands, water sources, natural areas, endangered and threatened species, and the ambient air. Project impacts are considered in the planning phase rather than after the project finishes.
Regional and statewide mitigation efforts have been discussed throughout this chapter. CDOT programs are aimed at improving air and water quality, preserving the delicate ecosystem of Eastern Colorado via the SGPI, and moving toward sustainable and cleaner energy production. All of these mitigation efforts are in line with CDOT’s Statewide Transportation Plan and policies set and enforced by CDPHE.
Mitigation for disruption to the human environment is addressed in Environmental Justice.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
Signed in 1970, NEPA is the federal environmental policy, which aims to incorporate the environment into the decision-making process. The three step NEPA process is important to transportation planning across the country, and includes:
- Categorical Exclusion
Projects that meet federal agency’s criteria for no significant environmental impact may be excluded from further NEPA examination.
- Environmental Assessment (EA) / Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)
The EA is a report which determines whether a project significantly impact the environment. If the project will not significantly affect the environment, then the agency issues a finding of no significant impact or FONSI.
- Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
An EIS is prepared when a noteworthy impact is expected to significantly impact the environment. The EIS considers alternatives and proposed actions. Outreach must be provided.
State Level Requirements
Colorado enforces federal requirements for environmental mitigation, specifically for air quality and the environment. CDPHE works alongside the EPA to enforce the federal EAs and EISs. CDPHE is also the lead for air quality regulations for the State and local agencies in Colorado, including the NFRMPO.
Project contact: Becky Karasko, AICP — (970) 416-2257, email@example.com