Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Attorney General's Environmental Justice Initiative LogoWhat is Environmental Justice?

Environmental justice (EJ) recognizes that all people – regardless of race, color, national origin, or income – have the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. Attorney General Bob Ferguson launched the Office’s EJ initiative in 2020. The AGO continues to build on this initiative and commits to incorporating EJ and EJ principles across agency activities.

Environmental justice is defined in state law 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, rules, and policies. Environmental justice includes addressing disproportionate environmental and health impacts in all laws, rules, and policies with environmental impacts by prioritizing vulnerable populations and overburdened communities, the equitable distribution of resources and benefits, and eliminating harm.”

What is the Heal Act?

The Healthy Environment for All Act (HEAL Act) was passed in 2021 and is Washington’s first state law that defines environmental justice. The HEAL Act establishes a coordinated approach for state agencies to reduce environmental and health disparities in Washington and improve the health of Washington state residents. Attorney General Ferguson opted the AGO in to complying with the requirements of the HEAL Act.

The environmental justice principles below provide a foundation of shared beliefs and values about the components of environmental justice that will inform the development of the deliverables set forth in the HEAL Act. These principles are based on the 17 Principles developed by the delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in 1991, the 2020 Washington State Environmental Justice Task Force Report, and the HEAL Act. The work of the Environmental Justice Council will also guide the evolution and implementation of these principles.

  1. Environmental Justice uses an intersectional lens to address disproportionate environmental and health impacts by prioritizing highly impacted populations, equitably distributing resources and benefits, and eliminating harm.
  2. Environmental Justice requires focusing on racial equity and recognition of the ways in which systemic racism leads to disproportionate environmental impacts and health disparities in Black communities, Indigenous communities, communities of color (BIPOC communities), and low-income communities, and demands deliberate anti-racist action.
  3. Environmental Justice necessitates meaningful engagement with impacted communities about the development, implementation, and enforcement of laws, rules, and policies that impact the environment and health of Washingtonians, and requires ongoing transparent and accessible communication throughout, without compromising the integrity of the AGO’s legal work.
  4. Environmental Justice demands recognition that self-determination is a core principle to tribal sovereignty and the AGO Tribal Consent and Consultation Policy is integral in decision making that affects tribes, tribal lands, and tribal rights.

HEAL Act Public Comment

The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is seeking public comment on three of our HEAL Act deliverables:

  1. Environmental Justice Community Engagement Plan (Draft)
  2. Environmental Justice Implementation Plan (Draft)
  3. Environmental Justice Assessment

The AGO will be accepting comments through Tuesday, October 31, 2023. To submit a comment, please use the hyperlinks for each HEAL Act deliverable below:

Translations for each portal in Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Ukrainian, and Korean are forthcoming.

If you have any questions, please contact AGO environmental justice staff via email at environmentaljustice1@atg.wa.gov or via phone call at (206) 342-6431.