Environmental Justice

PNNL partners with agencies and industry to identify and engage historically disadvantaged populations in regulatory decision-making, environmental assessment, and impact estimation of the consequences of complex polices and projects.

View of the Snake River in Idaho to represent how PNNL assesses the environmental impact of big projects.

PNNL's approach to Environmental Justice assessments includes desktop surveys—researching the local area using tools like Google Earth, academic research, the Census, and stakeholder data. This is followed by "dashboard surveys," where a team visits the site and drives around the wider area to make field observations related to the desktop survey. The team then interviews stakeholders, including local officials and organizations serving the community's underserved populations.

(Photo by melissamn | shutterstock.com)

Environmental justice is achieved when everyone, regardless of race, culture, or income, enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and of equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

PNNL partners with the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, federal and state agencies, and industry to identify and engage minority, low-income, resource-dependent, or other historically disadvantaged populations in regulatory decision-making, environmental assessment, and impact estimation of the consequences of large and complex polices and projects.

Environmental Justice Capabilities 

  • Conducting demographic analysis to identify minority or low-income populations potentially affected by federal or state actions. 
  • Performing local area reconnaissance, including "desktop" and "dashboard" surveys—researching available data, then following up with on-site observations—along with direct engagement with stakeholder organizations representing environmental justice populations. 
  • Identifying potential environmental or health impact pathways linking federal, state, or industry projects with environmental justice populations.
A flowchart showing the Environmental Justice analysis process, from preparations to engagement to findings.
Since 1994, PNNL’s interdisciplinary environmental justice team has led environmental justice assessments throughout the country. ​​​​​The data-backed, multi-step process involves analysis, field recognizance, and rigorous stakeholder engagement strategies to determine potential disproportionate adverse impacts. ​​​​​​(Infographic by Stephanie King | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory).

Innovative Tools and Deep Expertise to Support Environmental Justice

Gravel road and undeveloped wooded area outside the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Mississippi.
PNNL's Environmental Justice approach includes researching data using tools from Google Earth to the census, then conducting on-site field observations of the area surrounding the project, like this one outside the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Port Gibson, Mississippi. (Photo by: Dave Anderson | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Framework for Assessment of Complex Environmental Tradeoffs (FACET) allows leaders to make policy and business decisions that are risk-informed, socially equitable, and defensible valuations for all stakeholders based upon optimal trade-off analyses. 

Stakeholder Engagement - Our public outreach expertise—four decades developing and managing engagement campaigns, facilitating large meetings and conducting individual interviews—enables input on both the beneficial and negative potential impacts of complex projects on communities or groups of individuals, including underserved communities.

Comment Response Management System - PNNL developed this proven and effective knowledge management tool to provide a rapid and effective way to efficiently synthesize public and stakeholder comments at both large scales and broad scopes.

Environmental Risk and Assessment - Our expertise lies in developing solutions and tools to address complex challenges with difficult trade-offs. We help decision-makers, agencies, and industry partners navigate the impacts of climate change and changing baselines and evaluate environmental justice, energy infrastructure siting, flooding potential, and contaminant fate and transport. 

Energy EquityPNNL is spearheading an effort to advance equity and energy justice through the role of scientific research with the goal of building an advanced national power grid, transitioning to clean reliable energy, and designing smart buildings that are more just and equitable.

Executive Order Compliance and Guidance Development

PNNL provides population screening analysis, impact pathway identification, and development of prescriptive techniques for agency staff to utilize in assessing environmental justice impacts of federal actions.

Community members meet with PNNL and NRC representatives as part of an environmental justice assessment.
A vital element in the environmental justice process is engaging with and interviewing the local officials and organizations that serve the area's underserved communities. (Photo | U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission)