On November 22, 2022, the White House released a new version of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, an online interactive map that uses datasets on various “burdens” environmental justice communities may face, such as climate change, energy, health, housing, legacy pollution, transportation, water and wastewater, and workforce development. Communities will be identified as disadvantaged if they are in a census tract that meets the threshold for at least one of the burden categories and corresponding economic indicator, or are on the lands of a federally recognized tribe.
In January 2020, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008, which directed the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to develop a screening tool that could identify disadvantaged communities based on census tracts and the burdens these communities face. The White House stated that the goal of the tool is to identify disadvantaged communities that could benefit from federal programs, such as the Justice40 Initiative, which delivers 40% of the investment benefits in climate, clean energy, and related areas to disadvantaged communities. CEQ launched the first version of the screening tool at the beginning of 2022 and received feedback from federal agencies, tribal nations, state and local governments, the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, environmental justice stakeholders, and the public. Based on this feedback, the newest version of the tool incorporates new metrics, including water pollution, historic housing discrimination, wildfire risk, and proximity to abandoned mines. Through this update, the tool identified an additional 3,781 communities, totaling 27,251 disadvantaged or partially disadvantaged communities.
CEQ states that it plans to update the tool every year based on public feedback, research, and the availability of new data.
With the release of the tool’s latest version, CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory stated: “Every community, regardless of zip code, should have clean water to drink, healthy air to breathe, and protection from extreme climate events.” Mallory emphasized that the tool would allow funding for areas that have “borne the brunt of pollution so we can ensure they’re some of the first to see the benefits of climate action.”
More information on the screening tool can be found here.