OKI, as a public agency that receives federal funds and makes recommendations on federal spending, is bound by participation requirements for ensuring that federal funds are used fairly and without discrimination.

OKI seeks public participation as a means of developing effective solutions that can be implemented to address regional issues and needs. To develop solutions that account for the region’s diversity, OKI seeks participation from a broad expanse of its geographic region, as well as the many sectors of its population. Our Participation Plan is designed to achieve these objectives. 

Update to Public Participation Plan

In 2022, OKI updated our Public Participation Plan to further develop effective solutions to regional issues and needs. The plan included these updates:

  1. Processes and procedures for conducting video or teleconferencing events. This blended effort uses both in-person outreach and virtual public involvement (VPI) approaches, when appropriate.
  2. New criteria for defining Environmental Justice (EJ) communities. As a two-step process, the definition of target groups and areas first involves identifying the general distribution of each EJ population group. Second, where each group is most concentrated is defined. Where the concentration of an EJ population group meets (or exceeds) 50 percent of the regional average and has an EJ population of more than 250 individuals — the EJ population is considered to be part of a target group and area.

Plan’s four distinct but related elements:

Element 1

Presents a policy and process for involvement including focused special efforts to involve EJ target populations

Element 2

Describes a process for defining the population groups and areas in the OKI region to be targeted for EJ processes and procedures

Element 3

Describes a process for assessing the equity of transportation investments on behalf of EJ target populations

Element 4

Lists the initiatives that OKI will implement to support the plan

Role of OKI’s Participation Plan

OKI has had an active public participation process for years​

Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) planning regulations require an expanded participation approach. This includes public/community outreach and consultations with agencies at all levels.

OKI has adopted the FAST Act language that refers to this document as the OKI Participation Plan. The plan is an expansion of the OKI Policy for Environmental Justice. It clarifies the outreach process for the various planning processes and plans, such as the Metropolitan Transportation PlanTransportation Improvement Plan (TIP); and Corridor and Special Studies Plans.

The plan highlights the provisions for public meetings. It also provides maps identifying EJ populations for minority, low-income, elderly, individuals with disabilities, and zero-car households — showing where there is the greatest concentration of these groups.

Working with state and federal planning partners, OKI continues to identify the appropriate level of public participation, depending on project type and level of modification for both the TIP and the Participation Plan. The plan is updated at least every four years. 

Environmental Justice (EJ) and Public Participation​

In 1994, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12898 (E.O. 12898) to ensure that federal funds are used fairly and without discrimination.

In 2003, OKI adopted a policy for Environmental Justice that has been incorporated into the OKI Participation Plan. This policy expands OKI’s efforts to involve the public in its transportation decision-making. It also adds provisions for assessing the equity of transportation investments in its eight-county region.

The policy enhances OKI’s outreach efforts, particularly for minority and low-income population groups, as well as the elderly, individuals with disabilities and zero-car households. In support of our policy, OKI established an EJ Advisory Committee in 2000.

What is Environmental Justice?

According to the US EPA Office of Environmental Justice, it is: “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.

“Fair treatment means that no group of people, including racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic group, should bear a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences, resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local and tribal programs and policies.”

Is Environmental Justice a New Requirement?

No. Recipients of federal financial assistance are required to certify and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) must ensure nondiscrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and many other laws, regulations and policies.

Title VI and Environmental Justice Address Which Groups?

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

DOT Order 5610.2(a) on Environmental Justice and E.O. 12898 only list persons belonging to the following populations: minority and low-income groups. The elderly population and people with disabilities are included in FAST Act. But they are not required to be addressed under EJ.

Zero-Car households are a logical and reasonable extension of EJ. However, by virtue of its commitment to the intent of EJ, OKI continues to expand its transportation planning process to comprise all five population groups: minority, low-income, elderly, people with disabilities and zero-car households.

How Does Environmental Justice Improve Decision Making?

Environmental Justice should be integrated into every transportation decision — from the first thought about a transportation plan to post-construction operations and maintenance. Properly implemented, EJ principles and procedures improve all levels of transportation decision making. This approach will:

  • Result in better transportation decisions that meet the needs of all people
  • Facilitate the design of transportation facilities that fit more harmoniously into communities
  • Enhance the public participation process; strengthen community-based partnerships; and provide minority and low-income population groups with opportunities to learn about and improve the quality and usefulness of transportation in their lives
  • Improve data collection, monitoring, and analysis tools that assess the needs of and analyze the potential impacts on minority and low-income population group
  • Enable OKI to partner with other public and private programs to leverage transportation-agency resources, thus achieve a common vision for communities
  • Help avoid disproportionately high and adverse impacts on minority and low-income population groups