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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.

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. https://www.whitehouse.gov/ceq/news-updates/2022/07/26/icymi-biden-harris-administration-announces-additional-covered-programs-for-inclusion-in-the-justice40-initiative/

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.
 
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 https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/utilizing-advanced-environmental-health-and-geospatial-data-and-technologies-to-inform-community-investment 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.
 
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. https://screeningtool.geoplatform.gov/en/frequently-asked-questions#3/33.47/-97.5
 
Press release: https://www.whitehouse.gov/ceq/news-updates/2022/11/22/biden-harris-administration-launches-version-1-0-of-climate-and-economic-justice-screening-tool-key-step-in-implementing-president-bidens-justice40-initiative/

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