On June 26, 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or Agency) announced via e-mail to its EJ ListServ the third update to its environmental justice (EJ) mapping and screening tool, EJSCREEN. EPA uses EJSCREEN to inform several Agency functions, including permitting, enforcement, outreach, and compliance.
EPA’s first update to the tool, EJSCREEN 2.0, added new indicators including an environmental indicator on underground storage tanks; a socioeconomic indicator on unemployment; a health indicator based on life expectancy, asthma, and heart disease based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; indicators on “critical service gaps,” including food deserts, medically underserved areas, and areas with limited broadband internet access; and a climate change indicator with data on droughts, sea-level rise, and wildfires.
The second update, EJSCREEN 2.1, integrated demographic data from the 2016–20 American Community Survey (ACS), and added environmental, demographic, and index data for U.S. territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands. The update also included a mapping function that allowed users to review multiple EJ indices simultaneously, which EPA intended would provide “a cumulative” view of burdens on EJ communities.
Among other features to improve the functionality of the tool, the tool’s third update, EJSCREEN 2.2,
- adds a new indicator on Toxic Releases to Air, which quantifies the relative potential human health effects from exposure of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals—those chemicals EPA has identified as potentially causing (i) cancer or other chronic human health effects, (ii) significant adverse acute human health effects, or (iii) significant adverse environmental effects—consistent with priorities imposed by the Biden administration; on April 21, 2023, President Joe Biden issued Executive Order 14096: Revitalizing our Nation’s Commitment to EJ for All, which directed federal agencies to prioritize obligations under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act to notify communities near toxic releases from federal facilities and hold public meetings within six weeks of such releases regarding the related health risks and certain precautions
- adds new map layers indicating (i) health disparities including cancer and persons with disabilities; (ii) critical service gaps on accessibility to housing, health insurance, transportation; and (iii) EPA-regulated facilities that are currently or have been out of compliance with environmental laws and regulations
- integrates more recent demographic data from the 2017–21 ACS data from the U.S. Census
Stakeholders facing EPA enforcement or other actions should understand this screening tool, as EJ issues are informing how the agency may approach a particular site or decision. EPA is providing virtual trainings and “office hours” to help the public best understand how to use and apply the tool.
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