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Commonwealth's Counties

Bill requiring localities consider environmental justice in comprehensive plans fails

Legislation to require inclusion of an environmental justice strategy in reviews and updates to comprehensive land use plans failed to pass on the final day of the legislative session. HB 2074 (Simonds) as adopted by the House would require that “… each locality shall, during each review of its comprehensive plan, consider…”

  • Identifying each environmental justice community and fenceline community within the locality;
  • Identifying objectives and policies to reduce the unique or compounded health risks in each environmental justice community or fenceline community by means that include the reduction of pollution exposure, including the improvement of air quality, and the promotion of public facilities, food access, broadband Internet access, safe and sanitary dwellings, and physical activity;
  • Identifying objectives and policies to promote public involvement by residents of each environmental justice community or fenceline community in the public decision-making process; and
  • Identifying objectives and policies that prioritize improvements and programs that address the needs of environmental justice communities and fenceline communities.

As referenced by the patron of the bill, the proposal was a recommendation included in an October 2020 Environmental Justice Study prepared for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Specifically, “The Commonwealth should seek legislation requiring Virginia municipalities to consider environmental justice in their comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances in alignment with DEQ permitting responsibilities.”

The Senate amended the bill to remove the requirement thereby leaving it up to a handful of legislators from each chamber to craft a compromise. However, the clock ran out before an agreement could be reached.

VACo Contact: Joe Lerch, AICP

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