Social Equity and the Environment

Many of Oregon’s low-income neighborhoods and communities of color face greater environmental hazards, have less access to environmental benefits, and have the fewest resources to address these challenges. Because these communities endure many inequities, they are uniquely vulnerable to health harm from environmental factors.

Oregon’s decision-makers and others who benefit from power and privilege—including Oregon Environmental Council—have a responsibility to work towards greater social equity in our state. OEC has adopted an “equity lens” to ensure that we consider equity as we develop project and policy concepts.

OEC is committed to working with under-represented and over-burdened communities to understand challenges, develop solutions, and create space at the decision-making table. Projects today include:

  • Engaging neighborhoods vulnerable to diesel pollution in a community-based science approach to understanding the problem and developing local solutions. Our pilot is in the Lents neighborhood of Portland with Rose CDC and Green Lents.
  • Working with Coalition of Communities of Color, APANO and Verde to develop climate justice principles that help policymakers evaluate the equity implications of different climate pollution pricing programs.
  • In alliance with active transportation partners, including OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, seeking funding for a program to increase youth access to transit in order to remove barriers to education, civic engagement and youth employment.
  • Building support for increased funding for transit operations around the state to better serve the needs of the roughly 25% of Oregonians who cannot drive due to age, disability or financial circumstances.
  • Promoting legislation to protect Oregonians from contaminated well water, a serious issue for many rural Oregonians, including those who live in mobile home parks, migrant worker housing, and more.
  • Serving on the Governor’s Environmental Justice Task Force.
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