How Tennessee is Addressing Environmental Justice

Table of

How Does Tennessee Define Environmental Justice and Environmental Justice Communities?

Environmental Justice Definitions

There is no official statewide definition. However, the Tennessee Department of Health defines environmental justice as “not only protecting human health and the environment for everyone, but also ensuring that all people are treated fairly and given the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”

Environmental Justice Mapping Tools

The Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation maintains a Division of Remediation Sites mapping tool.

How Does Tennessee Consider Environmental Justice in its Substantive Actions?

Environmental Justice as a Policy of the Environmental Agency or Across All Agencies


Consideration of Environmental Justice in Permitting


Consideration of Environmental Justice in Enforcement


Consideration of Environmental Justice in Land Use


State Environmental Policy Act “Mini-NEPA”


Dedicated Funding to Environmental Justice Communities


Consideration of Cumulative Impacts


Prohibitions on Disparate Impact Discrimination


Established Environmental Rights


How Does Tennessee Address Environmental Justice in its Procedures?

Environmental Justice as Part of Environmental Agency’s Mission


Environmental Justice as Part of Other Agency’s Mission


Processes and Procedures (including Title VI)

Non-Discrimination Policy

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Office of Policy and Planning serves as the coordinating office for environmental justice. TDEC has a Title VI/Environmental Justice Coordinator and a Title VI Complaint Officer.

Grievance Procedures

Any person who believes that a state agency has discriminated based on race, color, or national origin, including limited English proficiency (LEP), may file a written complaint within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission in addition to any complaint filed with the state or federal agency involved.

Enhanced Public Participation and Information Access

The TDEC does not have regulations regarding enhanced access, but the website’s environmental justice page notes that in some cases TDEC may “deem it appropriate to go above and beyond what is required by law when there is an action that is anticipated to be controversial, face significant community opposition, or impact a community that is environmentally overburdened.” TDEC has internal guidance that provides best practices to staff regarding public participation opportunities, including the use of EJScreen to understand community characteristics and develop appropriate public participation practices.

Language Access

TDEC’s language assistance webpage is in English and lists a contact in each TDEC division “who can help customers get free language assistance in their division.” TDEC also has a Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Policy and Procedures.   

The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) also maintains an up-to-date list of employees who have volunteered interpreting skills. TDOT and TDEC have contracts with AVAZA to provide interpretation and translation services when needed.

Consultation with Indigenous Communities and Tribal Nations


Governmental Environmental Justice Structures, Positions, and Funding Streams

Environmental Justice Coordinating Agency

TDEC has a coordinating office in the Office of Policy and Planning which coordinates environmental justice for TDEC but coordinates with other state agencies on an as-needed basis.

Environmental Justice Coordinator


Environmental Justice Advisory Board


Funding for Environmental Justice


Additional Tennessee Environmental Justice Provisions


Tennessee Environmental Justice Contacts

Kendra Abkowitz
Title VI/Environmental Justice Coordinator
Department of Environment and Conservation


Lawanda Johnson
Title VI Complaint Officer
Department of Environment and Conservation


Tennessee Department of Health
Title VI Compliance Officer
Office of Compliance
710 James Robertson Parkway, 5th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243

(615) 741-9421

Where to Find Tennessee Environmental Justice Laws, Policies, and Tools

Constitutional Provisions


Executive Orders


Legislation and Statutes





Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Policy and Procedures,

Tennessee Department of Transportation, TDOT Language Access Assessment: Subrecipient Limited English Proficiency Guide (2014),

Mapping Tools