EJSCREEN: Coming to a Phone Near You

By Tai Lung

EPA’s environmental justice screening and mapping tool, EJSCREEN, consistently ranks as one of the most used tools on the agency’s website.

This week, EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) is announcing an enhancement that will make EJSCREEN even more useful. Based on requests and user

A captured launc screen image of the EJSCREEN on a mobile device

When visiting EJSCREEN on a mobile device, you will be given the option to launch the mobile optimized version.

feedback, OEJ is rolling out a mobile device enhanced version of EJSCREEN. This new mobile version contains the same key functions and features as the full version of EJSCREEN, but in a more compact, easily accessible format. This includes the ability to select locations, access reports, and to map environmental, demographic and EJ indicators.

Maps can tell powerful stories and make complex information easy to understand. As computer mapping technologies advanced, EPA recognized an opportunity to develop a

An EJSCREEN image of a more user-friendly platform

The EJSCREEN site is now available in a more user-friendly platform for your mobile device!

screening and mapping tool that advanced our environmental justice goals. This is how EJSCREEN came to be: as a tool for EPA staff to look at environmental and demographic factors related to environmental justice as we develop programs and policies that impact low-income, minority, and other overburdened communities.

In 2017, OEJ conducted a survey on EJSCREEN, which found that more than 62% of respondents believe EJSCREEN could be improved by optimizing it for use on mobile devices. That same survey found that community users only made up 19% of EJSCREEN total users. This finding raised questions as to whether there was a correlation between the low numbers of community users and the lack of a mobile version.

EJSCREEN was originally built for use on standard desktop and laptop computers.

This image displays some of the new features that EJSCREEN offers.

With the mobile version, you can still download reports and view the various demographic and environmental indicators.

However, this format is not always accessible to many stakeholders working in environmental justice communities. As a result, the EJSCREEN platform may not be useable to some of the same communities it was designed to help.

Research has found that low-income households have lower rates of in-home internet connectivity. These households are more likely to depend exclusively on smartphones or other handheld devices to access the internet. This “digital divide” presents an opportunity for the EPA to bridge the technological gap as it relates to the use of EJSCREEN.

As a result, EPA made building a mobile version of this important tool a priority. Because of the smaller screen size of mobile devices, the mobile optimized version of EJSCREEN does not have all the functionality of the full tool. However, it does contain the key features of EJSCREEN, and users that want the full features/content have the option to switch to the full desktop version even on mobile devices.

As EPA continues to develop EJSCREEN, we are committed to making the tool more useful and accessible for everyone, and this mobile version is a big step in that direction. OEJ hopes that you will test the mobile version of EJSCREEN to see how it can serve your needs.You can also subscribe to the Environmental Justice ListServ to receive updates on our upcoming EJSCREEN activities and events.

An image depicting computer and internet use in 2013

Computer and Internet use in the United States in 2013

An image depicting devices ownership by people in th US

We look forward to hearing from you – and in the meantime, we hope you enjoy the new mobile version of EJSCREEN!

About the Author: Tai Lung is the EJSCREEN Team Lead in EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund Success Stories: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Barry Breen Barry Breen

By: Barry N. Breen, Acting Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management.

We are proud of the environmental and economic accomplishments made by local communities who use EPA resources provided through our Brownfields program to clean up and reuse brownfield sites. These communities demonstrate that a commitment to protecting public health, repurposing land, and strengthening local economies can be accomplished together.

Through our Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, we help communities tackle environmental challenges to spur their local economic growth. Recipients of RLF grants capitalize a revolving loan fund to provide low-interest loans and sub-grants to clean up brownfield sites. When loans are repaid, the repayment is returned into the fund and subsequently lent to other borrowers, providing an ongoing source of capital. These and other EPA brownfields grants leverage additional resources needed to clean up and redevelop brownfields.

So many projects, past and present, demonstrate that environmental improvement works hand-in-hand with economic development. One outstanding example can be found in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Several beige one story warehouses near a highway

Former Stewart Metal Site

The “Steelyard” redevelopment is situated on a historic Oklahoma City oil field on the east side of Bricktown. The 5-acre site was contaminated by a former metal manufacturing facility and past drilling and storage activities. Countless underground structures were found during cleanup including underground storage tanks, historic oil wells, and piping. The City of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Oklahoma Corporation Commission and EPA all partnered to assist this complicated redevelopment. The City of Oklahoma City’s Brownfield RLF program loaned $1,300,000 to the project for environmental remediation and the remainder of the cleanup was paid for with private equity. It will be home to a mixed-use complex with retail shops on the first floor and housing above. It will offer 30 affordable housing units out of a total of 250 units in downtown Oklahoma City and will start leasing in summer of 2017.

Computer drawing of two multistory full block buildings, colored red and gray with interior courtyards.

Steelyard Apartment Rendering

West of this property, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority (OCURA) owned a 1.38 acre site that had the same environmental problem and underwent a cleanup simultaneously with the Steelyard apartments. The City of Oklahoma City provided a $200,000 sub-grant to clean up the site. OCURA was then able to do an RFP for site redevelopment. The site is currently being redeveloped into two new hotels, the AC Hotel and a Hyatt place that will create new jobs and open in 2017.

Computerized drawing of a five story building with a large metal awning.

Hyatt Place Rendering

East of this property, the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority (OCURA) owns a 1.83 acre development. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality awarded a $350,000 sub-grant and waived oversight costs for the cleanup of the project. Once the Steelyard apartments are complete, this property will be available for expansion of the apartment complex.

Computerized drawing of a five story building in gray and brown with a drive-in entrance.Projects like these demonstrate the value of our Brownfields program in communities across the country. Since the beginning of our Brownfields program in 1995, cumulative brownfield program investments across the country have leveraged more than $24 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities and more than 124,759 jobs. On average, for every one EPA Brownfields dollar provided, $16.11 is leveraged, and on average, 8.5 jobs are leveraged per $100,000 of EPA brownfields funds expended on assessment, cleanup, and revolving loan fund cooperative agreements.

A study has shown that when brownfields are addressed, nearby property values within a 1.24-mile radius can increase 5-15.2 percent. Another study analyzing data near 48 brownfields found that an estimated $29 to $97 million in additional tax revenue is generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup. This is 2 to 7 times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of those brownfields.

We are proud of local communities’ accomplishments achieved by using our Brownfields program resources. We plan to continue to work with communities to help them clean up and reuse their brownfield sites; to protect public health, revitalize land and strengthen the economy.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Progress in Strengthening Our Government-to-Government Relationship with Tribal Nations

Ethan Shenkman Ethan Shenkman
JoAnn Chase JoAnn Chase

By: JoAnn Chase and Ethan Shenkman

EPA has long honored tribal rights to sovereignty, self-governance and self-determination. These principles are enshrined in EPA’s Indian Policy, signed by Administrator Ruckelshaus in 1984 and reaffirmed by every EPA Administrator since. Thanks to the unique partnership between our offices — EPA’s American Indian Environmental Office (AIEO) and EPA’s Indian law team in the Office of General Counsel — we have made great strides in bringing these principles to life and weaving them into the very fabric of this agency.

One important example is our work to ensure tribal nations have the tools they need to protect waters on Indian lands. Under the Clean Water Act, tribes may apply to EPA for the ability to administer certain regulatory programs on their reservations, just as states do. To date, over 50 tribes have used this special status to issue their own water quality standards under the Act. We worked closely with the Office of Water to streamline and simplify the process for tribes wishing to apply for this status, so that more tribes can take advantage of these opportunities. In addition, we worked together to expand the scope of authorities that tribes can assume by providing a new pathway for tribes to engage in water quality restoration. Tribes who take advantage of these new authorities will be able to issue lists of impaired waters and develop “total maximum daily loads” (TMDLs) for those waters – critical regulatory tools for ensuring the protection of their waters, and the ecosystems and communities who depend on them.

EPA has also made tremendous strides under this Administration in living up to the ideals of true government-to-government consultation with tribal nations. In 2009, President Obama issued a Memorandum directing federal agencies to develop a plan for implementing the tribal consultation obligation in Executive Order 13175. In 2011, we issued the Policy on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribes, which sets a very high bar for ensuring meaningful, government-to-government consultation on EPA actions that affect tribal interests.

When we consulted with tribal leaders across the country, we listened, and we learned. It became clear that we needed to do more to ensure that we consistently consider tribal treaty rights when making decisions that may affect tribal natural resources. We recognize that treaties between the United States and tribal nations are the Supreme Law of the land, and that we have a solemn obligation to ensure that our decisions do not compromise those commitments. As a result, with terrific input from tribal nations, in February 2016, we issued a groundbreaking Treaty Rights Guidance as a supplement to our tribal consultation policy.

The new guidance ensures that EPA staff will engage in a critical inquiry with tribes about treaty rights (and similar federally-protected reserved rights) when the agency is making decisions focused on specific geographic areas where tribal hunting, fishing and gathering rights may exist. Under the guidance, EPA will “consider all relevant information obtained to help ensure that EPA’s actions do not conflict with treaty rights, and to help ensure that EPA is fully informed when it seeks to implement its programs and to further protect treaty rights and resources when it has discretion to do so.”

EPA’s treaty rights guidance was well received by our tribal partners. The White House Council on Native American Affairs was then asked by tribes to consider embracing the concept more broadly. As a result of conversations that we at EPA had with our federal partners, in September 2016 we signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve coordination and collaboration in the protection of treaty rights and similar tribal rights. We are delighted that nine agencies have thus far signed on to the MOU, most at the Secretarial level, and EPA and the Department of Agriculture are co-chairing a working group to implement this commitment moving forward.

These are but a few examples of the tremendous progress we have made in strengthening EPA’s government-to-government relationship with tribal nations – progress that is owed to the outstanding dedication and talents of the employees of our respective offices, and to the steadfast support of EPA’s Administrator and senior leadership. Nor could this progress have occurred without the close collaboration and partnership of our tribal counterparts. We are grateful for the opportunity to have served our shared mission of protecting human health and the environment for the benefit of future generations.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Planning Catalyst Cleanups to Spur Broad Community Revitalization

Mathy Stanislaus Mathy Stanislaus

By: Mathy Stanislaus

At EPA, we recognize that successful, sustained community revitalization occurs when neighborhood stakeholders, local governments and the private sector work together on a shared plan for community-wide improvement. That is why we created the Area-Wide Planning (AWP) grants program for brownfield sites; a legacy I’m particularly proud of.

The Brownfields AWP grant program is an innovation initiated by the Obama Administration to empower communities to transform economically and environmentally distressed areas, including communities impacted by manufacturing plant closures, into vibrant future destinations for business, jobs, housing and recreation. These grants allow communities to develop revitalization plans that best meet their vision and needs, and execute them in a manner that benefits the community and does not displace long-term residents. In developing this national grants program, we learned from our state counterparts. Our AWP program was inspired by New York State’s Brownfields Opportunity Area (BOA) Program.

For 2017, EPA is investing approximately $3.8 million in 19 communities from across the nation to assist with planning for cleanup and reuse of brownfield sites. Each recipient will receive up to $200,000 to engage their community, conduct research activities and complete a plan for cleaning up and reusing their key brownfield sites.

photo of a grafittied building behind an overgrown field

Several communities selected to receive funding for 2017 have been affected by manufacturing plant closures. They are looking to make environmentally sound cleanup decisions on these properties and reopen them for business, sparking additional redevelopment in surrounding areas. Some of the notable projects involve improving community housing, transportation options, recreation and open space, education and health facilities and renewed infrastructure, which will lead to increased commerce and employment opportunities.

For example, these planning projects include the area around a former electronics manufacturing plant in Indianapolis, Indiana and a closed paper mill in Bucksport, Maine. One area selected in Wayne County, Michigan is anticipating a coal-fired power plant closure and is aiming to get ahead of the economic disruption that it will cause to its community. Others have recently felt the effects of climate change related natural disasters such as flooding in Norfolk, Virginia and Burlington, Iowa.  Communities in Indianapolis and Maine have been working to recover from both natural disasters and plant closures.

The AWP program helps coordinate federal investments, like infrastructure and economic development, that help environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities. Aligning federal resources allows agencies to better meet communities’ needs and lets communities reap the benefits of collaborative investments for area-wide revitalization. This coordination allocates resources based on community-directed plans rather than historic practices of individual infrastructure funding criteria, which can result in urban sprawl.

For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation has committed to prioritizing communities who use the outcomes of the AWP process to inform further transportation projects in their Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant selection process. Carlisle, Pennsylvania is one example of this collaboration. In addition to the Area-Wide Planning grant the Carlisle Borough received in 2013, they received a $5 million TIGER grant in 2016 to help them advance the brownfields revitalization efforts laid out in their area-wide plan. Since 2013, Carlisle has also leveraged more than $10 million through state, local and private funding.

This is the fourth round of grants awarded under our Brownfields AWP program. So far, EPA has awarded a total of over $11 million to 64 grantees. To date, AWP grantees have leveraged over $385 million in additional public and private funding, as well as other EPA resources, to help address key brownfield sites within their communities.

Cleaning up brownfields sites results in significant benefits for communities. Studies have shown that residential property values near cleaned up sites increased between 5 and 15 percent. Data also shows that brownfields clean ups can increase overall property values within a one-mile radius. Preliminary analysis involving 48 brownfields sites shows that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup.

I’m proud of the success we’ve seen across the country and hope to see the continuation of communities utilizing the AWP grant funding to work together with neighborhood stakeholders, local government and the private sector, for a shared vision for community-wide revitalization.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.