Today the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced that substantial revisions have been made to its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), responding to feedback that was solicited in a Request for Information after a beta version of the tool was released in February 2022. The CEJST is designed to help federal agencies identify “disadvantaged” communities who are eligible to receive 40% of the overall benefits of Federal climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments, as promised by President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative.
Coming Clean and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform responded with the following statement:
“We applaud the CEQ for committing to improve the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool to more accurately identify the communities who are most in need of the public health, economic, and environmental investment benefits that were promised by the Justice40 Initiative.
This May, in a joint comment submitted by over 40 organizations, we raised concerns that the beta version of the CEJST wrongfully excluded many overburdened communities from eligibility for federal benefits, because it adopted overly rigid socioeconomic indicator thresholds. Farmworkers, Tribal communities, and many of the Environmental Justice communities we work with closely were not identified as “disadvantaged” by the beta screening tool.
The CEQ today announced that Version 1.0 of the CEJST includes nine new datasets that expand its criteria for disadvantage, and now capture projected climate risk, lack of indoor plumbing, linguistic isolation, redlining data, legacy pollution, and water pollution. These added indicators help the tool better identify farmworker communities, who often experience unsafe housing conditions, and communities who experience environmental injustices due to the legacy of racist public policy. The CEJST also identifies lands that are within the boundaries of Federally Recognized Tribes and locations of Alaska Native Villages as disadvantaged communities.
These improvements to the CEJST directly incorporate several of our recommendations, and reassure us that the CEQ is laying out a more transparent, iterative and democratic process for identifying communities eligible for Justice40 benefits.
We thank the CEQ for valuing and meaningfully responding to the feedback of communities who experience disproportionate health burdens due to chemical exposure, proximity to industry, and discriminatory underinvestment in their neighborhoods.
Developing an accurate and fair CEJST is an ongoing process, and we look forward to reviewing the tool in more detail to identify how it can further address outstanding concerns that were outlined in our joint comment. We remain committed to the process of further improving this tool and implementing the Justice40 Initiative.”
Coming Clean is a nonprofit environmental health collaborative working to transform the chemical industry so it is no longer a source of harm, and to secure systemic changes that allow a safe chemical and clean energy economy to flourish. Our members are organizations and technical experts — including grassroots activists, community leaders, scientists, health professionals, business leaders, lawyers, and farmworker advocates — committed to principled collaboration to advance a nontoxic, sustainable, and just world for all.
The Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform is a national network of grassroots Environmental and Economic Justice organizations and advocates in communities that are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals from legacy contamination, ongoing exposure to polluting facilities and health-harming chemicals in household products. EJHA supports a just transition towards safer chemicals and a pollution-free economy that leaves no community or worker behind.