[Federal Register Volume 77, Number 137 (Tuesday, July 17, 2012)]
[Notices]
[Pages 42077-42082]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2012-17404]



[[Page 42077]]

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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Transit Administration

[Docket FTA-2011-0055]


Environmental Justice: Final Circular

AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration (FTA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of availability of final circular.

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SUMMARY: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has placed in the 
docket and on its Web site final guidance in the form of a Circular 
(hereinafter ``EJ Circular'') on incorporating environmental justice 
principles into plans, projects, and activities that receive funding 
from FTA. This final guidance provides recommendations to State 
Departments of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, 
public transportation providers, and other recipients of FTA funds on 
how to fully engage environmental justice populations in the public 
transportation decision-making process; how to determine whether 
environmental justice populations would be subjected to 
disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental 
effects as a result of a transportation plan, project, or activity; and 
how to avoid, minimize, or mitigate these effects.

DATES: The effective date of the Circular is August 15, 2012.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For program questions, Amber 
Ontiveros, Office of Civil Rights, Federal Transit Administration, 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., Room E54-422, Washington, DC 20590, phone: (202) 
366-4018, fax: (202) 366-3809, or email, Amber.Ontiveros@dot.gov; or 
for legal questions, Cecelia Comito, Office of Chief Counsel, 200 West 
Adams Street, Suite 320, Chicago, IL 60606, phone: (312)353-2789, or 
email, Cecelia.Comito@dot.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Availability of Final Circular

    This notice provides a summary of the final changes to the EJ 
Circular and responds to comments. The final Circular itself is not 
included in this notice; instead, an electronic version may be found on 
FTA's Web site, at www.fta.dot.gov, and in the docket, at 
www.regulations.gov. Paper copies of the final Circular may be obtained 
by contacting FTA's Administrative Services Help Desk, at (202) 366-
4865.

Table of Contents

I. Overview
II. Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis
    A. General Comments
    B. Comments Beyond the Scope of the Circular
    C. Chapter I--Environmental Justice, Title VI and Public 
Transportation
    D. Chapter II--Conducting an Environmental Justice Analysis
    E. Chapter III--Achieving Meaningful Public Engagement With 
Environmental Justice Populations
    F. Chapter IV--Integrating Principles of Environmental Justice 
in Transportation Planning and Service Delivery
    G. Chapter V--Incorporating Environmental Justice Principles 
Into the NEPA Process

I. Overview

    Prior to the issuance of Environmental Justice Circular 4703.1, 
``Environmental Justice Policy Guidance for Federal Transit 
Administration Recipients,'' FTA guidance on incorporating principles 
of environmental justice into transportation decision-making processes 
consisted of a page in FTA Circular 4702.1A, ``Title VI and Title VI-
Dependent Guidelines for FTA Recipients.'' Recipients of FTA funds 
often were confused about the relationship between Title VI of the 
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and environmental justice (EJ). 
With the new EJ Circular, FTA is providing additional guidance on 
environmental justice and is clarifying the relationship between 
environmental justice and Title VI. The EJ Circular provides guidance 
on the implementation of Executive Order 12898, ``Federal Actions to 
Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income 
Populations,'' (February 11, 1994) and U.S. Department of 
Transportation (DOT) Order 5610.2(a), ``Actions to Address 
Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income 
Populations'' (May 10, 2012).
    On May 10, 2012, DOT issued Order 5610.2(a), updating and 
reaffirming DOT's policy to consider environmental justice principles 
in all DOT programs, policies, and activities. The May 2012 Order, 
updating DOT's original 1997 EJ Order, describes how the objectives of 
environmental justice will be integrated into transportation planning 
and programming, rulemaking, and policy formulation. The DOT Order sets 
forth steps to prevent disproportionately high and adverse effects on 
the environment and human health of minority and/or low-income 
populations through environmental justice analyses conducted as part of 
Federal transportation planning and National Environmental Policy Act 
(NEPA) provisions. It also describes the specific measures to be taken 
to address instances of disproportionately high and adverse effects and 
sets forth relevant definitions.
    FTA's EJ Circular builds on the DOT Order, and provides further 
guidance for recipients for promoting principles of environmental 
justice in their public transportation decision-making processes, 
programs, plans and activities. FTA conducted extensive outreach to 
develop the final Circular. FTA sponsored Information Sessions in five 
cities around the country regarding the proposed new EJ Circular as 
well as proposed revisions to the Title VI Circular (see docket FTA-
2011-0054 for more information on the proposed Title VI Circular). The 
meetings provided a forum for FTA staff to make presentations about the 
two proposed Circulars and allowed attendees an opportunity to ask 
clarifying questions. In addition, FTA participated in various 
conferences occurring in October and November 2011, hosted several 
webinars, and participated in a U.S. DOT webinar related to 
environmental justice. FTA received written comments to the docket 
related to the proposed EJ Circular from approximately 57 providers of 
public transportation, State Departments of Transportation, advocacy 
groups, individuals, metropolitan planning organizations, and the 
American Public Transportation Association. Some comments were 
submitted on behalf of multiple entities.
    FTA's new EJ Circular is intended to provide recipients with a 
distinct framework to assist them as they integrate principles of 
environmental justice into their public transportation decision-making 
processes, from planning through project development and 
implementation.
    FTA expects the additional clarification provided by both the new 
EJ Circular and the final Title VI Circular, to be published later this 
summer, will provide recipients the guidance they need to properly 
incorporate both Title VI and EJ into their public transportation 
decision-making. This notice provides a summary of the EJ Circular and 
addresses comments received in response to the September 29, 2011, 
Federal Register notice (76 FR 60590).

II. Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis

A. General Comments

    This section addresses comments that were not directed at specific 
chapters, but to the Circular as a whole.
    Some commenters expressed concerns about perceived administrative 
and financial burdens of the new Circular, stating that the Circular 
contained new

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requirements. These commenters also suggested that FTA exempt smaller 
transit agencies or rural transit agencies from the Circular. One 
commenter suggested that the new Circular contained additional 
``requirements'' because the Title VI Circular only addressed 
environmental justice as it related to construction projects, whereas 
the new EJ Circular states that recipients are to consider EJ 
principles as part of all of their transportation decision-making. This 
last comment illustrates one of the reasons FTA decided to provide 
expanded guidance on environmental justice. By identifying only one 
example for consideration of environmental justice (i.e., construction 
projects) in the Title VI Circular, recipients incorrectly inferred 
that consideration of EJ principles is limited to only construction 
projects. It is not. As set forth in Executive Order 12898 and DOT 
Order 5610.2(a), EJ principles should be considered in all DOT 
programs, policies and activities.
    Thus, the EJ Circular does not contain any new responsibilities for 
recipients. Recipients' responsibilities regarding environmental 
justice have been a part of FTA's annual Master Agreement, which is 
incorporated by reference and made a part of every grant agreement and 
cooperative agreement, for many years. Section 12.j. of FTA's October 
1, 2011, Master Agreement requires recipients to promote environmental 
justice by following and facilitating FTA's compliance with Executive 
Order 12898, and following DOT's Order on environmental justice. The EJ 
Circular does not place any additional burdens on recipients; rather it 
provides additional guidance to assist recipients in promoting 
environmental justice.
    Several comments addressed whether FTA should issue a separate EJ 
Circular. Most commenters expressed approval in providing separate 
Circulars on Title VI and environmental justice. However, a few 
commenters did not approve of separating the Circulars, noting that it 
would be less confusing if Title VI and EJ guidance continued to be in 
one combined Circular. FTA believes that providing separate Circulars 
on Title VI and environmental justice will help eliminate the existing 
confusion between Title VI and environmental justice and provide 
greater clarity to recipients and the public. Moreover, expanding the 
Title VI Circular to include the information now in the EJ Circular 
would make the Title VI Circular unwieldy.
    Numerous commenters made suggestions on the structure of the 
proposed Circular. Although several commenters liked the plain language 
style used in the EJ Circular, others suggested that the Circular 
should be revised to reflect the outline organizational structure used 
in the Title VI and other FTA Circulars and should contain separate 
chapters based on the type of recipient (i.e., transit agencies, 
metropolitan planning organizations, etc.). Other commenters suggested 
reorganizing the order of the chapters in the EJ Circular by placing 
Chapters IV and V, which address when to do an EJ analysis, before 
Chapters II and III, which address how to do an EJ analysis. 
Additionally, several commenters suggested moving the information in 
proposed Chapter VI, which discusses the differences and similarities 
between Title VI and EJ, to Chapter I. Several commenters asked that 
FTA provide more examples and explanation of the topics covered in the 
Circular.
    FTA considered all of these suggestions and incorporated several of 
them into the final EJ Circular. FTA took a hard look at the Circular's 
readability to ensure that it would be understandable to recipients, 
transportation planners, and the general public. Where appropriate, 
headings or graphic illustrations have been added. FTA reviewed all of 
the definitions and terms used in the Circular to ensure that they are 
consistent with Executive Order 12898, DOT Order 5610.2(a), and other 
federal guidance. Additionally, FTA verified that the definitions used 
in the EJ Circular are the same as those in the revised Title VI 
Circular. FTA, however, declined to incorporate concepts that are 
applicable only to Title VI into the EJ Circular.
    The suggestion to restructure the chapters informed our decision to 
combine Chapters I and VI. FTA declined to use the outline format used 
in other FTA Circulars because such a format would not contribute to 
issues of readability and accessibility of the Circular by the general 
public and non-transit professionals. FTA also did not revise the 
Circular to set out specific guidance based on the type of recipient 
because such distinctions are not as relevant when considering EJ 
principles in transportation decision-making.
    Several commenters wanted clarification on whether FTA would review 
EJ activities of recipients and the extent of the State departments of 
transportation's responsibility for subrecipients. Other commenters 
wanted FTA to incorporate strong accountability measures into the 
Circular, including requirements for documentation, reporting EJ 
activities alongside or within Title VI programs, monitoring 
compliance, public challenges of EJ analyses, and an EJ complaint 
process. Others questioned whether FTA has sufficient resources for 
review and enforcement of the EJ Circular.
    FTA currently reviews EJ analyses prepared as part of the NEPA 
process. Additionally, FTA monitors recipients' efforts to promote EJ 
through its oversight reviews, including triennial reviews, planning 
certification reviews, and state management reviews. FTA expects 
recipients to maintain documentation of EJ analyses undertaken as part 
of their transportation planning and decision-making processes for 
FTA's review during its normal monitoring activities described above.
    FTA declined to provide an enforcement mechanism for environmental 
justice similar to that provided in the Title VI Circular. Section 6-
609 of the Executive Order explicitly states that the E.O. ``is 
intended only to improve the internal management of the executive 
branch'' and that it ``shall not be construed to create any right to 
judicial review involving the compliance or non-compliance of the 
United States, its agencies, its officers or any other person with this 
order.'' Through the Master Agreement recipients are required to 
promote environmental justice and follow the Executive Order and DOT 
Order. FTA will monitor recipients' efforts to address EJ concerns 
through its normal oversight activities and NEPA reviews.
    Several commenters asked for clarification on the use of the word 
``should,'' and indicated they were concerned ``should'' would become 
``shall'' over time. FTA has reviewed the final Circular and made 
revisions as appropriate, limiting use of the word ``should.''
    Commenters also urged FTA to coordinate its EJ guidance with other 
Federal agencies, particularly with FHWA. FTA continues to work with 
FHWA and DOT to ensure consistency with promoting environmental 
justice, including our collaborative efforts with the Federal 
Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice and our joint 
efforts with FHWA on planning certification reviews. Additionally, all 
DOT modal administrations are subject to DOT Order 5610.2(a).
    Multiple commenters asked questions about whether the EJ Circular 
requires a separate analysis on service and fare equity from that 
required under Title VI. One commenter suggested requiring one analysis 
or report for assessing service and fare changes on EJ populations, 
rather than separate ones for Title VI

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and EJ. Another commenter suggested centralizing the service and fare 
change discussion in the Title VI Circular only. Some commenters 
suggested allowing recipients' flexibility in determining what type of 
service changes would require EJ analysis. Several comments suggested 
that, where a provider builds a project for another provider, FTA 
should require a service and fare equity analysis to determine the 
impact on minority populations of both systems. FTA considered these 
comments and decided that issues related to service and fare equity 
analyses should be consolidated in a single location in the final Title 
VI Circular. Consolidating FTA's guidance on service and fare equity 
analyses in the Title VI Circular will provide clarity to recipients 
and prevent duplication of efforts.
    Several commenters asked for more clarification and examples. In 
particular, a commenter wanted FTA to clarify that EJ applies at the 
earliest stages of decision-making, while another wanted clarification 
as to whether the Circular is outcome- or process-based. Throughout the 
EJ Circular, FTA states that principles of environmental justice are to 
be considered throughout the transportation planning and project 
development processes. Addressing environmental justice is primarily a 
process-based activity, involving public outreach to EJ populations and 
evaluating whether there are disproportionate adverse effects on EJ 
populations. However, outcomes are also important. In the event 
disproportionate adverse effects on an EJ population, recipients must 
evaluate whether there are practicable alternatives to the action prior 
to taking the action.

B. Comments Beyond the Scope of the Circular

    There were numerous comments that were outside the scope of the 
Circular, including comments on highway improvement projects, joint 
development policies, skeletal service, persons with disabilities, and 
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Several commenters also made 
comments on affordable housing, fair housing, and community 
development, which were unrelated to the EJ Circular. FTA is not 
responding to these comments because they are beyond the scope of the 
notice for the EJ Circular.

C. Chapter I--Environmental Justice, Title VI, and Public 
Transportation

    Chapter I of the final Circular is an introductory chapter. It 
provides a brief background of the Executive Order and DOT Order on EJ, 
describes the purpose of the Circular, and presents the guiding EJ 
principles, derived from the DOT Order on environmental justice, that 
informs the rest of the Circular.
    Several commenters suggested the discussion in Chapter VI of the 
Circular about the similarities and differences between Title VI and EJ 
be moved into Chapter I. FTA agreed with that suggestion, and revised 
chapter I to include the information from Chapter VI. At the core of 
this discussion was a table that compared Title VI and EJ. Several 
commenters also provided suggestions on the table, suggesting the table 
be enhanced and expanded, and also to discuss the scope, requirements, 
and applicability of Title VI and EJ. FTA has implemented many of those 
suggestions where appropriate, keeping in mind FTA has a separate Title 
VI Circular and did not want to repeat everything in the EJ Circular 
that is in the Title VI Circular.
    Several of the comments on Chapter I asked for clarification, 
specifically as to what it means to consider EJ principles; how EJ 
principles are addressed in different chapters; and how 
disproportionately high and adverse effects apply to majority minority 
areas. FTA has expanded the discussions of these topics in Chapter I 
and throughout the Circular. FTA also has clarified the Circular so 
that the discussions of the applicability of the EJ analytical 
framework are consistent throughout the Circular.
    One commenter applauded Chapter I, stating it offered a needed 
clarification on the important role of the EJ community throughout the 
planning and development process to ensure EJ concerns are meaningfully 
addressed.
    Another commenter suggested clarifying language to reflect 
potential or estimated effects. FTA believes the references to 
potential effects, in the ``Guiding EJ Principles'' and ``Conducting an 
EJ Analysis'' sections, effectively convey that potential effects are 
to be considered.
    One commenter suggested adding a section on avoiding, minimizing, 
or mitigating adverse effects. FTA has revised chapters II and V to 
include more discussion about mitigation.

D. Chapter II--Conducting an Environmental Justice Analysis

    This chapter is designed to provide an analytical framework for 
incorporating principles of environmental justice when considering 
transportation plans, programs, projects, and activities. In response 
to comments, this chapter has been reworked to provide more detailed 
guidance on conducting an EJ analysis.
    FTA received many comments on Chapter II, including multiple 
positive comments and suggestions for improving this chapter to provide 
more clarity. Additionally, many commenters raised questions about the 
terms used in the chapter, prompting FTA to take a hard look at the 
chapter to determine whether it provided sufficient information for 
recipients to undertake an EJ analysis. Based on this review, FTA 
decided that the chapter needed to be reorganized and that certain 
sections needed to be expanded.
    FTA proposed adopting the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) 
guidance on determining whether a minority population is present. Under 
this guidance, CEQ suggests that a minority population may be present 
if the minority population percentage of the affected area is 
``meaningfully greater'' than the minority population percentage in the 
general population or other ``appropriate unit of geographic 
analysis.'' The term ``affected area'' is an area in which the proposed 
project or activity will or may have an effect. CEQ suggests minority 
populations will always be ``meaningfully greater'' when the percentage 
of minorities exceeds 50 percent, regardless of what the percentage of 
minority populations is in the comparison geographic unit. FTA had 
suggested using this threshold for both minority populations and low-
income populations. Commenters were concerned that the ``50 percent 
threshold'' was a minimum requirement, and that MPOs and others were 
not free to establish lower thresholds, if appropriate. Others 
suggested that ``meaningfully greater'' should be defined consistent 
with how ``minority routes'' are defined in the Title VI Circular and 
FTA should use the ``average percentage of the minority population in 
the service area'' standard outlined in the Title VI Circular. Other 
commenters liked the proposed threshold. Some commenters were concerned 
that the standard ``meaningfully greater'' would be difficult to apply 
in practice.
    Based on the comments FTA received on this topic, we have decided 
not to adopt this threshold test, finding that the threshold was too 
confusing for recipients and resulted in further blurring of Title VI 
and EJ. FTA has removed any reference to adopting the CEQ threshold. In 
its place is a discussion of the importance of considering whether 
there are disproportionately high and adverse effects on EJ 
populations; these effects are the basis for addressing environmental 
justice concerns, not the size of the EJ populations. A very small

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minority or low-income population in the project, study, or planning 
area does not eliminate the possibility of a disproportionately high 
and adverse effect on these populations. Some commenters wrongly 
suggested that if minority or low-income populations are small 
(``statistically insignificant''), this means there is no environmental 
justice consideration. While the minority or low-income population in 
an area may be small, this does not eliminate the possibility of a 
disproportionately high and adverse effect of a proposed action. Thus, 
FTA has concluded that recipients should make EJ determinations based 
on effects, not on population size.
    Commenters also asked questions about how to undertake an EJ 
analysis when the majority of the population in the affected area is 
minority or low-income. The fact that the majority of the population is 
minority or low-income does not relieve recipients from analyzing 
whether the proposed action may result in disproportionately high and 
adverse human health or environmental effects. Under DOT Order 
5610.2(a), whether an adverse effect is ``disproportionately high'' on 
minority and low-income populations depends on whether that effect is 
(1) predominantly borne by an EJ population, or (2) will be suffered by 
the EJ population and is appreciably more severe or greater in 
magnitude than the adverse effect that will be suffered by the non-EJ 
population.
    FTA received a number of comments on the ``Preparing a Residential 
Demographic Profile'' section. We have taken these comments into 
consideration in the revised ``Know Your Community'' section, which 
incorporates the ``Preparing a Residential Demographic Profile'' 
section. One commenter stated that the inclusion of specific 
requirements to conduct equity analyses and analyze demographic data 
will help to lift out some of the ``hidden'' impacts of transit 
projects, such as cumulative impacts of a series of transit service 
cuts or fare increases. Multiple commenters expressed that American 
Community Survey (ACS) data is unreliable, that Census data should be 
more readily accessible, and that recipients should be allowed to use 
reliable existing data or complement Census data with local surveys. We 
have included ACS data as a source of demographic data because it is a 
useful tool that is, along with the Census, readily available. The ACS 
and Census are not the exclusive sources of demographic data, and local 
data can be used to refine ACS and Census data. Any demographic data 
used by recipients must be from a reliable source. Multiple commenters 
also wanted more guidance and flexibility regarding area of study and 
data sets, including information that goes beyond where EJ populations 
reside to where they work and receive benefits.
    One commenter suggested using the Census Bureau poverty threshold 
in place of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 
threshold for the definition of low-income. The definition in the 
proposed Circular is the same as that in the DOT EJ Order, and for 
Departmental consistency, we have retained that definition. However, 
recipients may use a more inclusive definition of low-income, e.g., 
150% of poverty level, or incomes at a certain percentage of median 
household income, etc., if they choose, provided the threshold is at 
least as inclusive as the HHS poverty guidelines. FTA did revise the 
Circular text in response to comments suggesting changes regarding the 
use of Census block level and block group level data, NEPA references, 
and TIGER/Line file availability.
    FTA received several comments regarding the Benefits and Burdens 
Analysis section. Commenters asked for clarification regarding the 
timing of an analysis, the types of projects or activities that require 
an analysis, whether a separate analysis would be required for 
Transportation Improvement Programs (TIP) and long-range plans, and 
whether special or promotional fares are subject to an analysis before 
implementation. Multiple commenters suggested FTA specify that an EJ 
analysis be done after alternatives are identified and before a 
preferred alternative is selected. Another commenter suggested that 
this type of analysis should apply only to specific transportation 
improvement projects, and not to Metropolitan Planning Organization 
(MPO) plans, which should be recognized as reflective of the time when 
the plan is developed. Another commenter suggested FTA clarify that 
benefits and burdens analysis must assess the burden of lack of 
service, while another suggested that metrics should be tailored to a 
specific impact, on which EJ populations would then provide input.
    Many of the above comments reflect a misunderstanding of what it 
means to promote the principles of environmental justice in public 
transportation plans, programs, activities and projects. EJ is not a 
one-time analysis conducted at a specific moment in time, never to be 
revisited again. Throughout the transportation planning process and 
project implementation, there are opportunities for recipients to 
engage the public, including members of EJ communities. FTA has 
attempted to clarify this analysis with the section ``Determining 
Whether Adverse Effect Is Disproportionately High.'' FTA has included 
more discussion and updated graphics on potential impacts and when an 
EJ analysis may be appropriate. Fare equity analyses are addressed in 
FTA's Title VI Circular, and not in the EJ Circular. An EJ analysis 
should be included in environmental reviews under NEPA, and impacts on 
EJ populations should be analyzed and addressed as part of the 
environmental impact statement (EIS), environmental assessment (EA) or 
categorical exclusion (CE).

E. Chapter III--Achieving Meaningful Public Engagement With 
Environmental Justice Populations

    Chapter III contains recommended strategies and techniques for 
ensuring that EJ populations have a voice in the decision-making 
process. In response to comments, this chapter has been revised to 
provide more clarity on our recommendations to make the public 
engagement process more inclusive and user-friendly, including the 
separation of the section on ``Hosting a Successful Public Meeting.'' 
This chapter also describes non-traditional outreach strategies that 
may result in greater participation by EJ populations.
    FTA received numerous comments on chapter III, with positive 
comments on the emphasis on public participation throughout the 
transportation planning process, including the parts on community 
advisory committees and public engagement teams, and the traditional 
and non-traditional outreach techniques. Multiple commenters made 
suggestions on public engagement and outreach. One commenter suggested 
using the term ``public engagement'' or ``participation,'' rather than 
the weaker term ``public involvement.'' In response to this comment, 
FTA has replaced references to ``public involvement'' with ``public 
engagement'' or ``participation.''
    Several commenters asked for expanded guidance, particularly on how 
to consider the needs of EJ populations, how to do so at the earliest 
stages of planning, and how to incorporate those needs in recipients' 
plans. These issues related to considering EJ population needs and 
planning are addressed in chapter IV, particularly in the ``Strategies 
for Public Engagement for Planning Activities'' and ``Strategies to 
Achieve Full Public Participation for Planning Activities'' sections, 
as well as in the FTA/FHWA joint planning regulations (23 CFR part 
450). Another

[[Page 42081]]

commenter asked for clarification on the timing of outreach; i.e., 
whether outreach was to take place during the planning process or at 
the earliest stages of planning. Outreach should be done early in the 
planning process and continue throughout the transportation decision-
making process, and this is reflected in the ``Public Engagement as 
Part of Transportation Planning'' section.
    FTA has clarified guidance on public engagement and has stated that 
public engagement is integral to good transportation planning. Some 
commenters suggested the need to balance public input and provider 
capacity and resources, which includes the acceptance of local outreach 
practices. FTA has clarified the language in the chapter that 
engagement strategies will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis 
and FTA encourages local outreach practices that will effectively reach 
community members.
    Additional outreach techniques that commenters suggested include 
advertising public meetings via multilingual door-to-door campaigns, 
working with community groups to develop public engagement plans, 
emphasizing the use of alternatively formatted materials for people 
with disabilities, and translated documents to reach limited-English 
proficient (LEP) persons, placing notices on vehicles and electronic 
displays, conducting onboard rider interviews, hosting meet and greet 
forums at terminals, avoiding blast public engagement techniques that 
may upset riders, and holding events and workshops at shopping centers, 
adult schools, or restaurants in areas where EJ populations live, work, 
and relax. FTA welcomes these suggestions and encourages recipients to 
evaluate the use of different techniques for public engagement in their 
communities. As noted in the Circular, there is no one technique for 
effective engagement of EJ populations; rather each situation will 
drive the outreach techniques used. Some commenters suggested that FTA 
create a clearinghouse of information for EJ populations to access 
region-specific data, require data collection from populations that do 
not regularly use a recipient's services, supplement data collection 
with feedback from EJ communities on the quality of service, and 
require transit providers to engage housing and social service 
providers to identify transportation challenges and mitigation 
strategies. FTA is exploring the possibility of such a clearinghouse, 
but declines to require this data collection and dissemination at this 
time.
    Several comments were made on the ``Getting to Know Your 
Community'' section. A few commenters stated that maps of disaggregated 
minority populations have limited use in determining outreach targets, 
while another commenter cautioned on relying too heavily on non-profit 
organizations to conduct outreach to the public. Disaggregated minority 
population maps may be more useful than aggregated minority population 
maps, as they will provide more specific information on EJ populations. 
At the very least, minority populations should be disaggregated from 
low-income populations. While outreach through non-profit organizations 
is important, they are one of several listed examples of non-
traditional outreach, along with informal group meetings, digital 
media, direct mail, and community led events. Another commenter stated 
that FTA should require collection of demographic information to ensure 
public meeting attendees are from the local EJ population, should not 
allow recipients to delegate or contract out public engagement, and 
should require public meeting notices posted in obvious locations three 
weeks prior to the meeting. Specific requirements for providing notice 
of public meetings are set forth in federal, state and local 
regulations, and must be followed. FTA does not intend to alter any of 
those regulations with this Circular. The intent of Chapter III is to 
provide suggestions for additional methods for engaging EJ populations.

F. Chapter IV--Integrating Principles of Environmental Justice in 
Transportation Planning and Service Delivery

    This chapter includes guidance on incorporating EJ principles into 
Statewide, metropolitan and local planning processes. Many of the 
strategies described in this chapter apply not only to the required 
Statewide and metropolitan planning processes, but also to planning 
activities undertaken by transit providers and other local entities 
with public transportation planning and service-delivery 
responsibilities. This chapter builds on the residential demographic 
profile described in Chapter II and describes specific planning tools 
for developing these profiles. The chapter briefly outlines the 
Statewide and metropolitan planning public engagement requirements in 
the joint FHWA/FTA planning regulations, and proposes strategies to 
achieve public participation in planning activities. Each plan, whether 
Statewide, metropolitan, or local, should encompass the goals and 
visions for future transportation for a region or area. This chapter 
explains why it is important to develop those goals and visions with 
input from EJ populations.
    This chapter provides some sample questions to guide the discussion 
with the public to inform planning officials on how well current 
operation, management, and maintenance of facilities and services serve 
the needs of communities, with particular attention to the parity 
between EJ and non-EJ populations. In response to comments, references 
to service and fare equity have been moved to the Title VI Circular. 
This chapter recommends that public transportation providers and 
planning officials maintain a regular and open dialogue with EJ 
populations regarding the effectiveness of the plan, and identify 
trends in public transportation for future plans.
    Commenters expressed interest in FTA providing more EJ guidance for 
MPOs and planning activities. One commenter pointed out that part of 
this chapter seemed repetitive of other chapters, while another 
suggested the creation of additional regulations and requirements that 
are sensitive to performance-based planning. Multiple commenters 
suggested linking the requirement to consider the needs of EJ 
populations with planning certification reviews, while several other 
commenters suggested flexibility as to when environmental justice 
should be considered for long term assessments. FTA revised the 
Circular to incorporate these suggestions.

G. Chapter V--Incorporating Environmental Justice Principles Into the 
NEPA Process

    This chapter provides recipients with a road map for incorporating 
EJ analysis into the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. 
Federal agencies are required to consider the effects of Federally-
funded projects on the environment. Recipients should include an EJ 
analysis, where applicable, as part of their NEPA documentation.
    This chapter describes how a recipient can incorporate EJ 
principles into its analysis of the environmental impacts of a proposed 
project by defining the project impact area, identifying alternatives, 
identifying adverse environmental effects, identifying project 
benefits, and identifying mitigation measures and enhancements. 
Finally, this chapter provides guidance related to projects that 
qualify as categorical exclusions and information related to NEPA-
specific public engagement strategies.
    Several commenters spoke positively of Chapter V. Some commenters 
made

[[Page 42082]]

recommendations, including incorporating CEQ's definition of cumulative 
impacts into guidance; allowing stronger state-level analyses to 
suffice; and removing the chapter altogether. Multiple commenters 
wanted more discussion and clarification on categorical exclusions, 
including when further evaluation for an exclusion or exemption needs 
to be conducted. Commenters also wanted to clarify that projects are 
not always evaluated through the NEPA process. FTA acknowledges that 
Chapter V does not serve as guidance on the NEPA process, but rather 
assumes the reader has a level of familiarity with NEPA and its 
requirements. Therefore, FTA declines to incorporate into Chapter V 
discussions of general NEPA concepts such as cumulative impacts under 
CEQ. However, FTA has revised Chapter V to provide additional 
clarification of the relationship between NEPA and EJ.

    Issued in Washington, DC, this July 12, 2012.
Peter M. Rogoff,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2012-17404 Filed 7-16-12; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE P