The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a new environmental justice (EJ) mapping and screening tool called EJScreen in order to better fulfill the Agency’s obligations relating to the protection of public health and the environment. It is based on nationally comparable data and a methodology that integrates demographic and environmental variables in maps and reports.
What is EJScreen?
EJScreen is an EPA mapping and screening tool for environmental justice that offers EPA a nationally consistent dataset and method for combining environmental and socioeconomic indicators. Users of EJScreen select a geographic region, after which the tool gives demographic, socioeconomic, and environmental data for the specific geographical area. All of the EJScreen indicators are made available to the general public. Essentially, EJScreen offers a means of displaying statistics and incorporates a technique for integrating environmental and demographic factors into EJ indices.
- 12 environmental indicators
- 7 socioeconomic indicators
- 12 EJ indexes
- 12 supplemental indexes
Development of EJScreen
The presidential Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice In Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, instructs all federal agencies to “collect, maintain and analyze information assessing and comparing environmental and human health risks borne by populations identified by race, national origin or income.”
Since that time, the EPA has used a variety of information resources to assist the agency in complying with the executive order and assessing the potential for disproportionate environmental impacts and other significant environmental justice concerns for populations across the country. EPA has created and used a number of mapping tools, some of which are now available to the public.
EJScreen development began in late 2010, and the EPA started using an early version in 2012. The innovative tool underwent peer review in 2014 and was made accessible to the general public in 2015. EJScreen has been and will continue to be updated annually with the most recent and best data available since its public release.
According to EO 12898 and the objectives of EJ 2020, EPA’s environmental justice strategy plan, EJScreen is meant to help the Agency better fulfill its obligations pertaining to the protection of the environment and public health.
Understanding that EJScreen is not a thorough risk analysis is paramount. It is a screening tool that looks at certain important environmental justice-related concerns, and the data it uses can be ambiguous. Any national screening tool must achieve a balance between the desire for high data quality and national coverage and the desire to include as many important environmental factors as possible given resource constraints.
Many environmental concerns are still missing from comprehensive, national databases. Data on environmental factors such as drinking water quality and indoor air quality, for example, are not available in sufficient quality, coverage, or resolution to be included in this national screening tool. EJScreen cannot provide information on every environmental impact and demographic factor relevant to any location. As a result, for a more complete picture of a location, its initial results should be augmented with additional information and local knowledge whenever possible.
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