Prince George's County, Maryland Environmental Justice Commission
In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly enacted the Maryland House Bill 183 (HB183) establishing the Environmental Justice Commission to address the environmental and public health concerns in Prince George's County. HB 183 lists the composition of the Commission, outlines the missions and duties of the Commission, mandates a findings and recommendations report along with a plan of action within two years and a month. Enacting the commission to facilitate environmental justice in Prince George's County can help improve inequities of low-income and minority residents in the area impacted by climate change. After the Commission had submitted the first final report in February 2019, the General Assembly further acknowledged the Commission’s work and passed HB 1362 in April 2019 to extend the termination date of the Commission to June 30th, 2020. The final report was submitted on January 10th, 2020.
According to HB 183, the tasks of the Commission include to:
- Study the environmental justice issues in the County
- Make recommendations for the issues and work to extend the duration of the Commission
- Reports the findings and recommendations to the county house delegation
The composition of the Commission includes:
- Office of the County Executive
- County Council
- State's Attorney's Office
- Department of the Environment
- Department of Permitting, Inspection and Enforcement
- Health Department
- Maryland Department of the Environment
- County's business community
- An environmental organization focused on EJ issues in the County
- The public for which two members, who reside in the County, are required
In the 2020 final report, the Commission identifies three priority areas, including health equity, health impact assessments (HIA), and environmental benefits districts. It further suggests for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission “to develop a countywide Environment and Health Equity Functional Master Plan addressing the priority environmental justice areas.” The report highlights how health impact assessments can further assist land use development to prevent further impacts to the vulnerable communities. Additionally, the Commission determined that the lack of current problem of lacking community engagement throughout the HIA hia processes due to the short period for public review has made the HIA ineffective. The Commission thus recommends to “codify criteria for a more robust HIA process for development projects. This guidance should include review criteria based on science, public and environmental health standards and community input.” Moreover, the environmental benefits districts proposed by the Commission aims to redress the past environmental injustice to the communities. The benefits include increasing tree canopies and parks, and building affordable housing. These benefits can also help enhance adaptation capacity to communities facing extreme weather and other climate impacts.
Prince George County Environmental Justice Commission exemplifies that through legislation, community engagement and equity can be addressed institutionally. The legislative design of the Commission allows for meaningful community engagement throughout the decision-making processes. State and local governments can utilize this institutional design to facilitate community engagement and achieve equity.
Publication Date: April 2019
- State of Maryland
- Prince George's County, Maryland
- Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit > Community-Driven Engagement Processes > Making Community Engagement Law