New Updates Incorporate Communities Facing Climate Risks, Transportation Inequities, Historic Redlining, Legacy Pollution, and Additional Barriers
Today the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) launched version 1.0 of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), an essential step in implementing President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and ensuring that the benefits of Federal programs are reaching communities that are overburdened by pollution and historic underinvestment.
President Biden has delivered an historic economic and climate agenda that’s centered on workers and communities. Through his Justice40 Initiative, the Administration is delivering 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 CEJST will help Federal agencies better identify communities that can benefit from the Justice40 Initiative.
“Every community, regardless of zip code, should have clean water to drink, healthy air to breathe, and protection from extreme climate events,” said CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory. “The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool identifies communities that have faced historic injustices and have borne the brunt of pollution so we can ensure they’re some of the first to see the benefits of climate action. This is a major step toward meeting President Biden’s environmental justice goals and forging a better, cleaner future for all.”
Version 1.0 of the CEJST is a critical component of the President’s historic environmental justice commitments in Executive Order 14008. Federal agencies are currently implementing the Justice40 Initiative and are now able to use the CEJST to help identify disadvantaged communities. Justice40 covers hundreds of Federal programs representing billions of dollars in annual investment, including programs that were funded or created in the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. A list of Federal programs covered by the Justice40 Initiative is available here.
Earlier this year, CEQ launched the beta version of the screening tool and solicited feedback from Federal agencies, Tribal Nations, State and local governments, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, environmental justice stakeholders, and the public. Version 1.0 of the CEJST incorporates new datasets, an updated methodology, improvements to the site experience, and more.
Version 1.0 of the CEJST identifies 27,251 communities as disadvantaged or partially disadvantaged, an increase of 3,781 communities from the beta version. Communities are considered disadvantaged if they are in a census tract that meets the threshold for at least one of the tool’s categories of burden and corresponding economic indicator, or are on the lands of a Federally Recognized Tribe.
Changes that were incorporated into version 1.0 of the CEJST include:
- Adding Tribal Nations: After meaningful and robust consultation with Tribal Nations, version 1.0 of the CEJST identifies lands that are within the boundaries of Federally Recognized Tribes and locations of Alaska Native Villages as disadvantaged communities, using data from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
- New Data on Indicators of Burden: Version 1.0 of the CEJST includes nine new datasets to identify burden related to:
- Projected climate risks data that show flooding and wildfire risks
- Transportation barriers data, using a dataset from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s own mapping tool
- Lack of greenspace data that helps to identify nature-deprived communities
- Lack of indoor plumbing data to better identify communities with low-income households that lack access to critical infrastructure
- Redlining data to identify communities that have faced historic underinvestment
- Legacy pollution data that show communities close to abandoned mines and formerly used defense sites
- Water pollution data based on information about underground storage tanks that may leak
- Changes to Improve Accuracy: Version 1.0 of the CEJST makes changes to enhance accuracy and ensure communities are not overlooked:
- Includes communities that are completely surrounded by other disadvantaged communities and meet an adjusted low-income threshold
- Removes students enrolled in higher education in the calculation of low-income
- Adding Data for U.S. Territories: Includes additional data for U.S. Territories (Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico); also removes linguistic isolation from the factors the tool will consider for Puerto Rico in response to stakeholder feedback.
- Enhanced User Interface: Version 1.0 of the CEJST makes improvements to the user interface, including:
- Displaying race and age demographics for census tracts
- Improving the design of the map side panel
- Improving the tool’s zoom functionality
- Adding a geolocation feature
Several updates incorporated into version 1.0 of the CEJST were recommended by the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, including adding historic redlining data, identifying Tribal Nations, displaying demographic information, and enhancing data on climate change vulnerability.
“I’m pleased to see the recommendations of our White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council reflected in the updated Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool,” said Richard Moore, Co-Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and Co-Coordinator of Los Jardines Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “The changes show that CEQ heard and incorporated communities’ feedback, including the voices of the people that Los Jardines Institute serves here in New Mexico who deserve clean air and water and uncontaminated soil. There is more work to do, but this is a positive step in the Administration’s work to advance environmental justice for all.”
“The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) can be important to advancing Justice40, so I anticipate that the public and the advocacy community will be motivated to focus on how it can be employed to identify and prioritize environmental justice communities,” said Peggy Shepard, Co-Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice.
“The newly updated CEJST is a major accomplishment in amplifying the struggles of overburdened and undeserved communities that have traditionally been overlooked,” said Catherine Coleman Flowers, Vice Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and Founder of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice. “As someone who has fought for equitable access to water infrastructure across America, I’m grateful for a tool that outlines a path for federal agencies to deliver resources to those who need them most. Together we can build a clean, equitable future.”
“After many months of national conversation and much hard work, today’s publication of the CEJST is a critical step toward making federal investments count for environmental justice – the very spirit of the Justice40 Initiative,” said Dr. Kyle Whyte, Co-Chair of the WHEJAC Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Nations Workgroup and George Willis Pack Professor at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability. “Community-serving organizations, Tribal governments, federal agencies, and diverse others are now in the position to actively use the tool, honing it through application to advance equity, justice, and empowerment for the people they serve.”
“Legacy pollution is a prevailing problem in Appalachia. In response to outreach and engagement with communities, the Council on Environmental Quality updated the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool and added abandoned mines to better reflect the reality on the ground,” said Tom Cormons, White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council Member and Executive Director of Appalachian Voices in Charlottesville, Virginia. “This will help ensure that historic levels of federal funding for land reclamation and clean energy development get to the right places, creating economic opportunity where it is most needed.”
The CEJST will continue to be updated based on public feedback, which can be submitted on the CEJST website. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has also launched a committee to analyze how environmental health and geospatial data can continue to improve the screening tool. With support from the U.S. Digital Service, the CEJST uses an open-source platform that provides full transparency on the methodology and datasets used.
“Accurate and trustworthy data, analysis, and tools will be essential to the success of Justice40 programs,” said U.S. Digital Service Administrator Mina Hsiang. “USDS was able to bring our expertise in data analytics, modern technology, and building in the open and with open source from the start, which will increase trust and allow accuracy and adaptability moving into the future.”
Version 1.0 of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool can be found at https://screeningtool.geoplatform.gov.
An FAQ with more information on the tool can be found here.