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CHAPTER 1. GUIDEBOOK OVERVIEW INTRODUCTION Environmental justice is a complex subject that speaks to fundamental human desires for fairness, equity, and social and economic justice. Sadly, the basic objectives of environmental justice are often misunderstood. This guidebook was prepared to help those in the field of transportation planning and policy development better understand how to incorporate environmental justice assessment into planning processes for developing transportation projects, policies, and programs. The key regulations and policy drivers behind environmental justice assessment requirements are Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) and Executive Order 12898 issued by President Clinton in 1994. Although environmental justice assessment is required by Executive Order, we make the case throughout the guidebook that practitioners should evaluate environmental justice because it is part of good transportation planning. Although current policy directs practitioners as to when environmental justice assessment should be performed, there is no standard national policy or guidance on how it should be performed. Therefore, there is no "one size fits all" approach to environmental justice assessment. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it allows a practitioner the flexibility to select the most appropriate assessment technique for the problem at hand. The drawback, of course, is that the practitioner must spend time, and sometimes a considerable amount of time, determining which method or methods are most appropriate. This guidebook is intended to simplify that process. One key purpose of the guidebook is to advance the state of the practice by presenting a broad range of effective environmental justice assessment techniques. To achieve this purpose, the guidebook must be easy to use and of value to practitioners. Each guidebook chapter therefore presents a mixture of commonly used techniques and new or little-used techniques that improve upon common practice. Throughout the guidebook, we stress the importance of having the flexibility to select the method or methods that are most appropriate for the issue at hand. In general, the complexity of analysis and level of detail required will be greater for project planning and corridor studies than for long-range transportation plans and investment plans. In addition, the greatest level of public concern usually is expressed at the project planning level because the effects of the decision are tangible and will be experienced in the short term. Because of these realities, most of the methods in this guidebook are presented with project-level planning in mind, although this is not to say that policy, program, and longer-range planning efforts are any less important to environmental justice. As a result of this focus, practitioners with Departments of Transportation (DOTs) may see more opportunities to directly apply these methods than will practitioners with metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs). However, many methods that function at the project level can also be used to evaluate long-range regional planning efforts. We therefore expect that this guidebook will be a valuable resource for practitioners in both DOTs and MPOs. 1