Mapping environmental justice

March 4, 2021

An old tool getting a Biden update

An Obama-era EPA mapping tool called EJScreen is being updated and improved for use in support of the Biden’s Administration’s environmental justice objectives. Initially, the mapping tool helped the agency and the public link up certain natural features, population centers, community and business facilities, and associate them with minority and low-income populations, potential environmental quality issues, and other points of interest.

EJScreen was designed for use by community residents or other stakeholders to search for environmental or demographic information. Facilities that have a federal and state Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, report toxic air emissions under the Clean Air Act or report on several other federal environmental programs can be mapped with this tool.

EJScreen can also support a wide range of research and policy goals. Biden issued an Executive Order on Climate and Environmental Justice in January that directed EPA to build upon EJScreen to identify disadvantaged communities in need of federal investments and benefits as well as to “inform equitable decision making across the federal government.”

The map below of the area immediately surrounding UEP’s office in Johns Creek, GA, provides a visual of the water features and facilities that are mappable (in this instance, streams, lakes, schools and dischargers of substances to water and air).
Some activist groups are encouraging EPA to model its revamping of EJScreen to closely mimic CalEnviroScreen, the mapping tool created in 1999 by California for similar purposes.

UEP will be monitoring these developments closely, including recently introduced legislation titled “The Environmental Justice Mapping and Data Collection Act of 2021.” Authors of this bill have stated it “addresses the critical need of accurately identifying communities who have been systematically overexposed to pollution and contamination for way too long.”