Environmental Justice (EJ) Overview
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) uses the definition created by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to define environmental justice. It is defined “as 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, regulations, and policies.”
South Carolina formed an S.C. Environmental Justice Advisory Committee in 2007. Act 171, which passed the S. C. General Assembly in 2007, mandated that a governmental advisory committee be created. The Advisory Committee consists of approximately 12 agency heads or their designees and 3 academia. The major task of the Advisory Committee was to study and consider existing practices at state agencies related to environmental justice in economic development and revitalization projects in this state and to make recommendations related to environmental justice issues in economic development and revitalization projects in this state.
The S.C. Environmental Justice Advisory Committee defined Environmental Justice as:
“the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of people of all races, cultures and income with respect to the development, adoption, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies in working towards increasing prosperity of all South Carolinians.”
Within DHEC, the environmental justice initiative is managed within the Office of Environmental Affairs. The promotion of environmental justice is a priority for the Director of the Office of Environmental Affairs.
DHEC has worked over the years to develop and strengthen relationships with environmental justice stakeholders to ensure that citizens within overburdened communities are involved in the decision-making process. As we work to address concerns within these communities, we have also encouraged the use of collaborative, problem-solving strategies and partnerships. Our current partners include local, state, and federal levels of government; non-profit, grassroots and faith-based organizations; academia, business; industry; public and private organizations; and most importantly, citizens from around the state.