Environmental Justice

The passage of the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act in 2021 is a historic step toward eliminating environmental and health disparities among communities of color and low income households. It is the first statewide law in Washington to create a coordinated state agency approach to environmental justice.

The law covers seven state agencies: the Washington State Department of Health (DOH); the state departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Ecology, Natural Resources, and Transportation; and Puget Sound Partnership. It allows other agencies to opt in. The HEAL Act builds on and implements some of the key recommendations from the Environmental Justice Task Force (PDF). Some key elements include:

Defining Environmental Justice

The law establishes a clear definition for Washington that builds on the Environmental Protection Agency's definition of environmental justice:

“Environmental justice means 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 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.”

This video explains the disproportionate impacts of environmental burdens on people with low incomes and people of color. For more information visit the EPA's Environmental Justice website.

Environmental Justice Council

The law also creates an Environmental Justice Council to provide recommendations and guidance to the state and an Interagency Workgroup to assist with technical coordination among the state agencies.

Subscribe to Environmental Justice Council Email Updates

Agency Coordination and Requirements

The law gives agencies standards of practice and seeks to accelerate and coordinate work. DOH is required to convene an interagency workgroup to support Environmental Justice Council work and ensure coordination among agencies.

Agencies are required to:

Role of the Washington Tracking Network

Washington Tracking Network (WTN) is a DOH program focused on making public health data more accessible. This data includes our Environmental Health Disparities (EHD) map, an interactive mapping tool that compares communities across our state for environmental health disparities, and provides insights into where public investments can be prioritized. With the passage of the HEAL Act, the EHD map is identified as a resource to agency decision-making and requires DOH to maintain and expand the map. The law also requires the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to conduct a technical review of the map.

Under the new law, WTN will:


The following are some of the key milestones required:

Note: The Climate Commitment Act (CCA) requires the Environmental Justice Council to advise on several elements of climate programs and receive reports on certain aspects of the implementation of this law. This timeline will be updated as more information is available.

Environmental Justice Speaker Series 

This series was developed to highlight the leadership and expertise of community advocates and leaders and to learn from the work they’re doing to advance environmental justice for tribes and communities across Washington state. 

Recording: April 19, 2023 - Environmental Justice and Sense of Place featuring Twa-le Abrahamson-Swan (Spokane) from River Warrior Society and Shelly Boyd (Sinixt). 

Recording: April 26, 2023 - Occupational Safety, Worker Health, and Environmental Justice featuring Edgar Franks from Familias Unidas por la Justicia and Rosalinda Guillen from Community to Community.

Recording: May 3, 2023 - Tribal Indigenous Perspectives on Environmental and Climate Justice featuring Pah-tu Pitt (Warm Springs/Wasco) from Native Kut and Jay Julius (Lummi) from Se’Si’Le and Julius Consulting LLC. 

Recording: May 10, 2023 - Youth Perspectives on Environmental and Climate Justice featuring Neli Jasuja, Andrea Martinez, Fatima Camara, Jaydalen Blossom, and Emma Coopersmith from Young Women Empowered’s Y-WE Grow program.

Recording: May 17, 2023 - Environmental Justice and Community Co-Governance: A Conversation Between Community and State Agency Staff featuring Faduma Fido from Peoples Economy Lab, Nirae Petty from the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, Charmila Ajmera from the Washington State Department of Health, and Rowena Pineda from the Washington State Environmental Justice Council.

Recording: May 24, 2023 - The Role of Community-Based Participatory Research in Achieving Environmental Justice and Reducing Environmental Health Disparities featuring Dr. Anjum Hajat from the University of Washington Department of Epidemiology and Paulina López and Lissette Palestro from the Duwamish River Community Coalition.

Reports and Information

Environmental Justice Factsheet (PDF)

Environmental Justice Task Force Final Report (PDF)

Focus on Climate Justice in Washington (PDF)

Stay Connected

Subscribe for Email Updates about the HEAL Act

Contact the Environmental Justice Program

Related Resources

Environmental Justice Council

Environmental Justice Task Force

Climate Commitment Act

All Agencies’ Environmental Justice Notices submitted to the Office of Financial Management