What is Environmental Justice?
The principles of environmental justice call for the fair treatment of all people, regardless of race, culture, national origin, or income, in the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Environmental justice also necessitates dedicated outreach and transparent opportunities for all community members to represent their concerns in the decision-making process.
Environmental Justice at the Council
The Delta Stewardship Council (Council) has worked to incorporate environmental justice into several recent and ongoing initiatives, described below. These initiatives also identify next steps to address environmental justice in our future work.
Delta Adapts is a comprehensive, regional approach to climate resilience that cuts across regional boundaries and commits to collaboration across state, local, and regional levels. We have made a commitment to incorporate equity into Delta Adapts by identifying the communities and populations in the Delta that are most vulnerable to climate hazards, and engaging with grassroots organizations in those communities to ground-truth the technical analyses and contribute directly to the development of adaptation strategies.
An Equity Technical Memo and Outreach and Engagement Summary document our approach to embed equity in our regional Vulnerability Assessment. The Vulnerability Assessment identifies communities and populations in the Delta that will face disproportionate economic and public health impacts in the future, without adaptation measures. These communities can be further explored using the Delta Social Vulnerability Index map.
Our 2019 Five-Year Review Report identified Environmental Justice as a priority issue.
As a component of the Five-Year Review of the Delta Plan, we requested an external evaluation of the Delta Plan and Delta Plan implementation efforts. The evaluation identified existing Delta Plan recommendations that benefit disadvantaged communities and help ensure the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water. However, the evaluation also called for us to investigate the need for additional strategies or responses to address environmental justice within the Delta Plan. The Five-Year Review recommended that we prepare an issue paper to address this need.
To obtain a broad range of input on the Five-Year Review, we enlisted a third-party consultant to conduct a survey and to interview Delta stakeholders. The overwhelming majority of respondents self-identified their Delta roles and interactions as being associated with residency, recreational use, and/or business relationships. The Five-Year Review Stakeholder Assessment Report noted stakeholder requests for broader intention in including Delta interests in outreach processes, advisory bodies, or other input opportunities. This feedback informed development of the Public Participation Plan endorsed by the Council in 2020.
We recognize that an essential component of environmental justice is including impacted communities in our scientific, planning, and decision-making processes. Information and opportunities to provide input and represent concerns must be accessible and transparent, particularly for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change and pollution. We recognize that the possible effective mechanisms for public participation are not “one size fits all” and may vary depending on the issue.
Endorsed by the Council in June 2020, the Public Participation Plan serves as a guide for how any stakeholder or member of the public, regardless of background, location, ability, or status, can pursue opportunities to inform our decision-making. The Plan includes specific recommendations and commitments related to environmental justice and may be updated following completion of the environmental justice issue paper.
For more information on recent and current opportunities to participate in Council matters, visit our Public Participation web page.
The Delta Science Program provides funding for scientific research critical to establishing knowledge relevant to Delta management. Priority topic areas for all funded research are identified in the Science Action Agenda, which is collaboratively produced by Delta stakeholders, managers, and scientists and regularly updated by the Delta Science Program. The current 2021 Delta Science Proposal Solicitation requires research proposals to evaluate whether the project will benefit vulnerable communities as identified by the Delta Social Vulnerability Index. By encouraging the Delta science community to develop research projects with Delta communities in mind, the Science Program strives to ensure that the distribution of research funding reflects the needs of impacted communities.
Environmental Justice Issue Paper
Our 2019 Five-Year Review Report identified environmental justice as a priority issue and recommended that we prepare an issue paper to investigate the need for additional strategies or responses to address environmental justice within the Delta Plan, summarize the best available science, and identify future policy options for the Council to consider. We initiated the preparation of the issue paper in February 2021.
Public input on the environmental justice issue paper is essential. To ensure the issue paper reflects the values and priorities of the Delta’s environmental justice stakeholders, we are developing a public engagement strategy based on preliminary stakeholder outreach and our Public Participation Plan.
We are actively reaching out to community-based organizations that represent and serve environmental justice communities in the Delta, the Delta watershed, and areas that receive water from the Delta. If you have not yet heard from Council staff and would like to be involved in this initiative, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once the issue paper is complete, options will be presented for Council consideration. The Council members will decide which options to carry forward and will direct staff on next steps.
The Council’s Tribal Consultation Policy is a separate and distinct process.
To learn more about the our commitment to environmental justice, or other ways to engage in our process, please contact email@example.com. To contact our Tribal Liaison, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.