Screening Tool Will Help Federal Agencies Ensure that the Benefits of Federal Programs are Reaching Disadvantaged Communities

Today, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a beta version of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), a major step toward addressing current and historic environmental injustices and fulfilling a key campaign promise from President Biden.

The CEJST is a critical component of the President’s historic environmental justice commitments in Executive Order 14008, including the Justice40 Initiative, a commitment to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of Federal climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. The beta version of the tool, on which the public is being asked to provide feedback over the coming 60 days, will help agencies identify disadvantaged communities to ensure that everyone is receiving the benefits intended from Federal programs.

“Too many American communities are still living with water that isn’t safe to drink, housing that isn’t built to withstand climate change-fueled storms, and too few opportunities to benefit from the nation’s bright and clean future,” said CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory. “The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool will help Federal agencies ensure that the benefits of the nation’s climate, clean energy, and environmental programs are finally reaching the communities that have been left out and left behind for far too long.”

To facilitate feedback on the beta version of the CEJST, CEQ issued a Request for Information in the Federal Register soliciting feedback on the tool. The public can also provide feedback directly on the CEJST website, which is an open source platform that provides the public with full transparency on the methodology and datasets being used. Once CEQ has received and reviewed feedback on the beta version of the CEJST and updated it as deemed necessary, Federal agencies will use the tool to help identify disadvantaged communities to ensure that 40 percent of the overall benefits of Federal climate, clean energy, and other key programs are reaching disadvantaged communities, as identified by the CEJST.

In establishing the process for developing the beta version of the CEJST, CEQ incorporated recommendations provided by the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council in order to ensure the highest quality tool for the President’s historic and unprecedented initiative of delivering Federal investment benefits to disadvantaged communities across the nation and its territories.

“We are deeply grateful to the environmental justice leaders who have shared their recommendations and ideas for developing this landmark tool,” CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory added. “The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool is and must remain a work in progress over the months and years ahead as we continue to refine and improve it based on feedback from environmental justice communities and the public and new and improving data.”

CEQ today also announced that the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is working toward launching a study that would assess existing environmental health and geospatial data and environmental screening tools, for the purpose of developing information that could be used to further update and improve the methodology in the CEJST.

Relatedly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is today also releasing an update to its EJSCREEN tool, which is widely used by Federal and state agencies for a broad array of screening, outreach, and analytical purposes. EJSCREEN and CEJST complement each other – the former provides a tool to screen for potential disproportionate environmental burdens and harms at the community level, while the latter defines and maps disadvantaged communities for the purpose of informing how Federal agencies guide the benefits of certain programs, including through the Justice40 Initiative.

The beta version of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool can be found at https://screeningtool.geoplatform.gov.

A Q&A document with more information on the tool can be read here.

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