SB 5141 Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act

Signed into law on 5/17/2021, went into effect 7/25/2021, implementation timeline varies. 

The Act implements the recommendations of Washington’s Environmental Justice Task Force, requiring state agencies, including the departments of Ecology, Health, Natural Resources, Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation, and the Puget Sound Partnership) to conduct environmental justice assessments as part of their decision-making process (by July 1, 2023) and to annually report to the EJ Council their implementation status. The terms “cumulative environmental health impact,” “environmental benefits,” “environmental harm,” “environmental impacts,” “equitable distribution,” “overburdened community,” “vulnerable populations,” and “environmental justice” are all defined.  

Defining 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 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.” 

Environmental Justice Implementation Plans

By January 1, 2023, each covered agency must include their environmental justice implementation plans within their strategic plans. The Act specifies what that the EJ implementation plan must include agency-specific goals, actions, metrics, methods, and strategies related to environmental and health disparities, equitable community engagement, and compliance with existing federal and state laws and policies.  

By July 1, 2022 “each covered agency must create and adopt a community engagement plan that describes how it will engage with overburdened communities and vulnerable populations as it evaluates new and existing activities and programs.” 

By July 1, 2023 “each covered agency must, where practicable, take the following actions when making  expenditure decisions or developing budget requests to the office of financial management and the legislature for programs that address or may cause environmental harms or provide environmental benefits: (a) Focus applicable expenditures on creating environmental benefits that are experienced by overburdened communities and vulnerable populations, including reducing or eliminating environmental harms, creating community and population resilience, and improving the quality of life of overburdened communities and vulnerable populations; (b) Create opportunities for overburdened communities and vulnerable populations to meaningfully participate in agency expenditure decisions; (c) Clearly articulate environmental justice goals and performance metrics to communicate the basis for agency expenditures; (d) Consider a broad scope of grants and contracting opportunities that effectuate environmental justice principles… (e) Establish a goal of directing 40 percent of grants and expenditures that create environmental benefits to vulnerable populations and overburdened communities.” 

Each agency must publish a dashboard report starting in 2024 describing their EJ progress to the Office of Financial Management’s website.  

Requires tribal consultation for EJ implementation plans, community engagement plans, or any significant agency actions that affect federally recognized Indian tribes’ rights and interests in their tribal lands.  

The Department of Health must continue to develop and maintain an environmental health disparities map to track disparities over time, measure different indicators, and consult and solicit feedback from tribes, overburdened communities, institutions of higher learning, and relevant state agencies.  

Environmental Justice Council: 14 members appointed by Governor, 7 community representatives, including 1 youth representative, 2 tribal community representatives, 2 EJ “practitioners or academics”, 1 business representative who is regulated by a covered agency, 1 labor union representative, 1 at-large representative. Supported by the Department of Health staff and works with the interagency work group. The Act gives the Council authority to make recommendations to amend laws to further EJ, provide assistance to state agencies to incorporate EJ principles into agency activities, and recommend funding strategies. However, the role of the Council “is purely advisory and council decisions are not binding.”  

  • Action Agency(ies): Departments of ecology, health, natural resources, commerce, agriculture, and transportation, Puget Sound partnership, and any agency that opts to assume all of the obligations of this act
  • Policy Champions: Washington Environmental Justice Task Force, Front and Centered (Guillermo Rogel, legislative advocate), Community to Community Development, Washington Environmental Council, Sponsored by Senators Saldaña, Lovelett, Carlyle, Das, Frockt, Hasegawa, Hunt, Keiser, Kuderer, Liias, Nobles, Pedersen, Rolfes, Stanford, and Wilson
  • Read the full policy language

Additional Resources

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