USEPA and CEQ Announce Updates to Environmental Justice Screening Tools
On Friday, February 18, both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) announced updates regarding their respective environmental justice (EJ) screening tools. According to EPA, the updates to their screening tool—which has been named “EJScreen 2.0”—include a new EJ index for underground storage tanks, updated census data, a new demographic indicator on unemployment, a mapping tool on food deserts, medically underserved areas and broadband service areas, and data from the Centers for Disease Control on life expectancy, asthma and heart disease.
The screening tool released by CEQ, called the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST), is designed to help implement the Biden Administration’s Justice40 initiative, an executive order that directs that 40 percent of 40 the benefits from clean energy, climate and other funding should be allocated to EJ communities. CEQ has released its tool in a beta version and is soliciting public feedback for the next 60 days. CEQ will be publishing a Request for Information in the Federal Register seeking feedback, and will also be accepting feedback through the CEJST website.
As we have noted previously, we anticipate that federal agencies will increasingly rely on EJ screening tools such as EJScreen 2.0 and the CEJST to guide critical funding, permitting and environmental enforcement actions in 2022 and beyond. Accordingly, it will be important for the regulated community to understand the bases, uses and limitations of these EJ screening tools and how their use by federal agencies could affect future operations and opportunities.