Release of 2017 EJSCREEN Update

By Matthew Tejada

One of the best parts about working for environmental justice at EPA is that we constantly have the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life across the United States. We hear from county commissioners, road builders, city planners, elected officials, professors, tribal leaders, and of course we hear from community members and community based organizations on a whole host of issues impacting their health, their environment and their quality of life. Over the years, it has been heartening to hear what communities have learned, and could achieve, when they used EJSCREEN.

EJSCREEN was released to the public to provide a common starting point for engagement and mutual understanding when discussing environmental justice issues. It provides people with a tool to consider impacts, to ask better questions, and to bring a deeper level of transparency to important data. EJSCREEN’s use has continually grown since it was publicly released. In two years, it has been used over 200,000 times, and we have constantly worked to make sure that the tool evolves to meet the needs of its ever-expanding user base.

I am excited to announce that EJSCREEN has some important new enhancements.

  • We improved our water indicator to show water bodies potentially impacted by toxicity and water pollution.
  • At the request of many of our local government and planning users, we have added municipal level boundaries.
  • We have included new and improved layers on schools and public housing.

And we have of course updated all of the tool’s environmental and demographic indicators with the most recently available data.

Over the past year, we have focused on expanding the ways we engage with our users. We completed an in-depth user survey to gain greater insight for improving EJSCREEN in the future. We are also generating case studies so users can learn how others use the tool in their work.

The range of uses is impressive. In New Jersey, transportation agencies are using EJSCREEN to inform initial planning for new road projects. A North Carolina-based community group used EJSCREEN to identify air-quality concerns and potential environmental threats to adjacent neighborhoods. And EJSCREEN helped Coeur D’Alene, Idaho identify vulnerable areas for greater outreach and consideration. These examples point to why environmental justice is important and how making good data transparent puts environmental justice into action.

To help our many users understand the tool and its updates, we will be hosting a series of webinars with EPA EJSCREEN experts on August 21, September 7 and September 14.

We hope that you will test out EJSCREEN to see how it can serve your needs and provide us feedback on how we can continue to improve it. You can also subscribe to the Environmental Justice ListServ so that you can receive updates on our upcoming EJSCREEN activities.

We look forward to hearing from you – and in the meantime, we hope you find the new version of EJSCREEN as useful as we do!

About the Author: Matthew Tejada is the Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice.

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.

Upcoming Events at EPA

By Michaela Burns

Don’t limit the festivities to just the fourth! Here are some EPA events you can enjoy in the first few weeks of July.

Transform Tox Testing Challenge Semi-Finalist Workshop
Friday, July 8th at 8:00 a.m. ET

scientist does tox testingEPA, NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, and the National Toxicology Program launched the Transform Tox Testing Challenge: Innovating for Metabolism in January. The goal of the challenge is to develop a practical design that will help the cells in toxicity lab test behave more like the human body when evaluating chemical’s toxicity. Currently, the cells used in lab test do not break down or metabolize chemicals like they would in a human body. The successful design will offer information that can be used to review and evaluate lab results, and will also ensure better quality data, transparency, and overall confidence in assay results.

On July 8th, Transform Tox Testing Challenge organizers are hosting a workshop at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina to bring together Stage 1 winners, agency experts, and other leaders in the field. The workshop will provide an opportunity to discuss the Tox21 and ToxCast programs, the semi-finalist proposals, and feasible expectations for the remainder of the challenge.

Register for the event now!

 

EJSCREEN July 2016 Public Release Webinar
Monday, July 11th at 3:00 p.m. ET

screenshot of ej toolWhat is the pollution like on your block compared to other neighborhoods? How close is your house to a hazardous waste site or a noisy highway? Learn about a tool that can help answer these questions at this upcoming webinar.

EPA is releasing the latest version of EJSCREEN, an environmental justice tool that highlights locations that may have higher environmental burdens and vulnerable populations. The new EJSCREEN has an abundance of new features— all of which were requested by the public – including (to list a few):

  • The inclusion of the National Air Toxic Assessment environmental indicators for cancer risk, respiratory, and diesel PM
  • Scalable maps, that summarize data at the Census block group, tract, or county-level
  • The ability to save sessions and print maps from the home screen
  • A feature that allows you to look at two maps, side-by-side
  • The addition of Puerto Rico

Participate in the webinar online or email olp.kevin@epa.gov to request a conference line!

 

For more events check out our EPA Research Events page.

 

About the Author: Michaela Burns is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

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.

Shaping a More Sustainable and Socially Just Future

By Sue Briggum

Many U.S. companies take pride in being more “sustainable” by reducing environmental impacts and engaging constructively with the communities in which they operate and the customers they serve.  Corporate sustainability reporting is replete with examples of resource conservation efforts and sustained initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas footprints.  Non-governmental evaluative frameworks like the Global Reporting Initiative and CDP provide powerful templates for demonstrating environmental progress.

With regard to the social justice pillar of sustainability, however, we are only beginning to understand the potential for progress.

Considered from this perspective, EPA’s Draft EJ 2020 Action Agenda outlines a framework for a fairer and more sustainable future.  EPA characterizes the sustainable elements of its plan in terms of opportunity to use a community-based approach to make “a visible difference in environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities.”  Moreover, the EJ 2020 draft framework highlights a number of practical approaches to shaping more sustainable and socially just environmental programs.

EJSCREEN provides the data to make discussions about overburdened and underserved communities concrete and factual.  With data from this tool, it becomes much easier to see whether public or private efforts to improve the environment, provide jobs, or fund new amenities align with social justice or thwart it by giving more to those who already have a great deal.  The tool is powerful because instead of relying on assumptions and impressions, it simply relays the facts in formats that are easy to see.  For example, with EJSCREEN it will be easy to see whether a new educational grant program is benefiting communities which, because of income or language barriers, need that supplement, or whether lead paint removal funding is going to communities least able to do the work on their own.

Tools like EJSCREEN also inform EPA’s efforts to align regulatory programs with environmental justice goals by incorporating considerations of environmental justice into permit issuance.  When environmental justice is part of the permitting discussion rather than a consideration after the fact, the “rules of the road” are clearer for all parties.  EPA’s emphasis on constructive engagement and collaboration throughout its draft EJ 2020 framework forecasts an intent to make permitting engagement constructive and focused on problem-solving.  It’s far easier to re-route traffic, refine a monitoring program, or address operational concerns in project design and permitting than to do so as a contentious afterthought.  EPA’s facilitation of this kind of collaborative engagement can save all parties time and grief because community perspectives are known, considered, and addressed.  The process itself builds familiarity and, in time, trust.

The most basic building block for environmental justice is its incorporation within environmental programs as crafted, not just as implemented by permit.  In recent rules, EPA has employed the power of tools like EJSCREEN to understand and address geographic distributional effects.  Through its Environmental Justice Research Roadmap, there will be opportunities to address the more difficult issue of how to understand and address inequities that are population-based rather than place-based – for example, how environmental and social factors can contribute to health disparities.

Regulations and permits are only as good as the assurance that they are followed.  EPA’s continuing commitment to focus enforcement efforts in overburdened communities has long been applauded by the business community.  It’s a key means to assure a level playing field and consistent community protection.

Finally, the strength of the 2020 Action Agenda is that it is a Framework — a consistent approach across EPA programs and authorities.  If EPA engages across the agency, with the partners it identifies and in the open and communicative manner it embraces, 2020 should be replete with success stories from all stakeholders’ perspectives.

About the author: Sue Briggum is Vice President of State and Federal Public Policy, Waste Management, and a former member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), a federal advisory committee providing advice to the EPA. Sue also co-chaired the NEJAC work group on EJ Screening, as well as served as a member of the Science Advisory Board’s (SAB) work group on EJ in Rulemaking.

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.

EJSCREEN: Una herramienta para poner justicia ambiental en acción

Por Matt Tejada

Muy a menudo en Estados Unidos, las comunidades minoritarias o de bajos ingresos cargan con el peso de la contaminación de nuestro país. Estas amenazas ambientales y de salud pública hacen más difícil que los niños con asma aprendan en las escuelas y que las personas que se afectan por la contaminación lleven una vida activa y saludable.

Hay muchas maneras en que la EPA trabaja para proteger a estas comunidades altamente afectadas. Durante los últimos dos años, hemos utilizado una herramienta de análisis y mapeo llamada EJSCREEN para informar nuestro trabajo, ya sea en la escritura de subvenciones, las decisiones sobre políticas o la aplicación de las leyes ambientales. Hoy tomamos un importante paso adelante al compartir EJSCREEN con el público, para amplificar su efecto, proporcionar una mayor transparencia de cómo la justicia ambiental se toma en consideración y fomentar la colaboración con nuestros aliados.

EJSCREEN utiliza mapas de alta resolución junto con datos demográficos y ambientales para resaltar lugares que puedan tener mayores cargas ambientales y poblaciones vulnerables. EJSCREEN puede ayudar a entender el peso de la contaminación que por ejemplo, confronta una comunidad localizada bien cerca al tráfico y que también tiene un alto porcentaje de personas con salud precaria, que tienen acceso limitado a la atención médica, faltos de recursos o habilidades lingüísticas o en etapas susceptibles de la vida. Este tipo de datos es esencial para organismos gubernamentales, organizaciones sin fines de lucro y cualquier otra entidad interesada en trabajar para hacer un impacto positivo en las comunidades estadounidenses afectadas por la contaminación.
061115 EJSCREEN Photo CHJ7-AjWgAEhbvL
EJSCREEN combina información ambiental y demográfica en “índices EJ” que dan al usuario una manera de medir los impactos para ayudar a entender mejor las áreas que necesitan protección medioambiental, acceso a servicios de salud, vivienda, mejoramiento de la infraestructura, revitalización de la comunidad y resiliencia climática.

Hace un tiempo hemos estado colaborando con nuestros aliados estatales y locales para asegurarnos que EJSCREEN es sólido y práctico. Muchos estados y grupos interesados están deseosos de usarlo, pero la EPA no obliga a los gobiernos estatales u otras entidades a que utilicen la herramienta o sus datos correspondientes. Además, esta herramienta no se debe utilizar como base para identificar qué áreas son comunidades EJ, tampoco es apropiado que sea la única herramienta para hacer una evaluación de riesgo. Está diseñada para informar la toma de decisiones, para que todos podamos hacer decisiones más completas y adecuadas en nuestros objetivos de protegernos contra la contaminación.

Esperamos que haga uso de la herramienta y nos deje saber cómo podemos mejorarla, tanto para el uso dentro de la EPA, como también para el uso de todos en los Estados Unidos.

Sobre el autor: Matthew Tejada es el director de la Oficina de Justicia Ambiental de la EPA.

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.

EPA-State Collaboration Expands Opportunity for Shared Results

by John Linc Stine

Addressing inequities so that all citizens can pursue healthy and fulfilling lives is one of our most important jobs in public service. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has challenged state agencies in Minnesota to reduce disparities in all areas of public services and outcomes. As Commissioner of the state’s environmental agency, I have made it my mission to embed the principles of environmental justice into all aspects of the work we do now and in the future.

In Minnesota, we are fortunate to live in a state with a healthy natural environment that contributes to a high quality of life. This is due in large part to a long history of shared responsibility and action by all areas of society in our state to build and support healthy ecosystems and healthy communities, and responsive industries and a strong economy. However, we know not everyone has benefited equally. In Minnesota, as around the rest of our country, significant and unacceptable disparities exist between middle and upper income people and lower income residents and people of color and Native Americans. This includes gaps in educational and economic achievement and health outcomes.

For too long, many of us in government talked about injustices of the past and present without following up and putting our words into action. EPA’s renewed commitment to action and results about environmental justice has helped to revitalize efforts in Minnesota that had been simmering on the back burner. The ambitious and comprehensive foundation laid by the work of EPA’s Plan EJ 2014 not only advanced integration of environmental justice into federal programs; it also helped to stimulate and strengthen our own efforts by showing leadership, providing tools, and sharing experiences. EJ 2020’s emphasis on collaboration with states and other co-regulators will expand the opportunity for shared learning among states and the EPA – something I believe will only help strengthen our individual efforts.

In Minnesota, we are working to integrate environmental justice into all of our programs, using our expertise and resources to target our work where it will have the greatest effect in reducing past harm and preventing future harm. For example, in Minneapolis, we are piloting an initiative to engage and collaborate with significant air emission sources and community members to identify opportunities to improve air quality and address community concerns. We also are increasing our air monitoring in potentially overburdened communities around the state to better understand disproportionately impacted areas.  Our draft framework can be found at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/gp0r2d.

As we adjust the practices of our programs and capacity to address environmental justice needs, we are benefiting from the experiences of EPA, its Chicago regional office, and other states with more mature programs than our own.  We will do better work in this area by sharing knowledge.

EPA’s work is closely aligned with our approaches and goals in Minnesota. While we share many of the same goals, we bring different strengths and resources to bear that complement each other. For example, with more local knowledge and existing relationships with municipal governments and community groups, states are often in a better position to facilitate community engagement and support community-based efforts to advance environmental justice. With more resources for policy analysis, tools development, and scientific research, EPA fulfils an important role where individual states may have less capacity. The development of EJSCREEN is an example of this role. In these ways, EPA and MPCA can complement each other, moving us both toward our goals more efficiently.

As EJ 2020 takes shape, we look forward to working with EPA and other states to learn from each other and leverage our unique capacities to reduce disparities and improve quality of life for all.

About the author: John Linc Stine is the Commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and chairs the Environmental Council of the States’ Air Committee.

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.

EJSCREEN: A Tool for Putting Environmental Justice into Action

Matt Tejada Matt Tejada

By Matt Tejada

Too often, America’s low-income and minority communities bear the brunt of our country’s pollution. These environmental and public health threats make it harder for kids with asthma to learn in school, and for people impacted from pollution to lead active and healthy lives.

There are many ways EPA is working to protect these overburdened communities. For the past two years, we’ve been using a screening and mapping tool called EJSCREEN to inform our work, whether its grant writing, policy decisions or enforcement. Today we take an important step forward by sharing EJSCREEN with the public, to broaden its impact, provide greater transparency in how environmental justice is considered, and to foster collaboration with partners.

EJSCREEN uses high resolution maps combined with demographic and environmental data to highlight places that may have higher environmental burdens and vulnerable populations. EJSCREEN can help you better understand the pollution burdens facing a community that has a high proximity to traffic, for instance, and also has a high proportion of people who are in poor health, have reduced access to care, lack resources or language skills, or are at susceptible life stages. This kind of data is essential for government agencies, non-profits, and any stakeholder working to make a positive impact in American communities affected by pollution.

EJSCREEN combines environmental and demographic information into “EJ indexes,” giving the user a way to measure impacts to better understand areas in need of environmental protection, health care access, housing, infrastructure improvement, community revitalization, and climate resilience.

We’ve been collaborating with our state and local partners for a while to make sure EJSCREEN is robust and actionable. Many states and stakeholder groups are eager to use it, but EPA is not mandating that state governments or other entities use the tool or its underlying data. Further, the tool shouldn’t be used as a basis for identifying areas as EJ communities, nor is it an appropriate standalone tool for making a risk assessment. It’s meant to inform decision making, so we all can make more complete and appropriate decisions in our goals to protect against pollution.

We hope you will participate in using the tool and provide us feedback on how we can make it better, both for use within EPA’s work but also for use by everyone in the United States.

About the author: Matthew Tejada is the Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice.

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.

Help Shape the Future of EJ at EPA: Participate in Webinars on EJ 2020 and EJSCREEN

by Charles Lee

Too often, America’s low-income and minority communities bear the brunt of our country’s pollution. These environmental and public health threats make it harder for kids with asthma to learn in school, families with medical bills to manage finances, and people hurting from pollution to find a job.

Under the leadership of Administrator McCarthy, EPA is committed to making a visible difference in these communities. As chair of the federal interagency working group on environmental justice, she is working to ensure that EPA and other federal resources go to communities that need them the most. That’s why I’m excited to share with you exciting news about opportunities for you to learn about and have a voice in developments that will help EPA advance environmental justice.

As part of our effort to engage as many stakeholders as possible, EPA is hosting two national webinars about the new draft EJ 2020 Action Agenda framework – EPA’s next overarching strategic plan for environmental justice. EJ 2020 is a strategy to advance environmental justice through EPA’s programs, policies and activities. Read Mustafa Ali’s blog for more about how EJ 2020 is about defining new goals for the coming years. You can RSVP for the EJ 2020 webinars here.

EJ 2020 National Webinars

  • May 7th: 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Eastern
  • May 14th: 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern

We are also hosting three informational webinars about EJSCREEN, EPA’s soon-to-be-released environmental justice screening and mapping tool. The tool provides demographic and environmental information for all areas of the United States, and includes a method for combining environmental and demographic data into “EJ indexes,” to assist in identifying areas in the country that have higher pollution burdens and vulnerabilities.

We’re sharing this tool with the public to broaden its impact, build transparency, and foster collaboration on a shared commitment to protect American communities. We hope you will participate in using the tool and providing us feedback on how we can make it better. You can RSVP for the EJSCREEN webinars here.

EJSCREEN National Webinars

  • May 12th: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Eastern
  • May 28th: 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Eastern
  • June 3rd: 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Eastern

I want to invite you to these webinars because the success of both EJ 2020 and EJSCREEN will be greatly enhanced through robust input and dialogue with the communities we serve. I look forward to hearing from you during these webinars, getting your thoughts and input on EJ 2020 and EJSCREEN, and continuing this conversation to advance environmental justice. Your voices, experiences and expertise can help shape a strategy that addresses the needs of communities.

About the author: Charles Lee is the Deputy Associate Assistant Administrator for Environmental Justice at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Lee is widely recognized as a true pioneer in the arena of environmental justice. He was the principal author of the landmark report, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. He helped to spearhead the emergence of a national environmental justice movement and federal action including Executive Order 12898, EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice.

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.