Front Porch Blog

Getting federal dollars to the communities that need them most

New mapping tool that will determine eligibility for Justice40 funding needs your input!

When President Biden took office last year, he made a commitment to environmental justice communities, a term that refers to communities that bear a disproportionately high level of pollution and related health risks. Biden made the announcement as part of a broad climate change executive order that included a new initiative known as “Justice40,” which commits to ensuring that at least 40% of the benefits of certain government spending categories goes to disadvantaged communities.

The Justice40 Initiative can make an enormous positive impact, if the money is well-spent and goes to the communities that need it most. We need your help to make sure the mapping tool that determines where this investment can go accurately reflects the reality on the ground — keep reading to learn how to plug in!

Justice40 is a historic commitment that requires federal agencies to make fundamental changes to how they administer clean energy grant and loan programs, public transportation and affordable housing investments, environmental remediation programs, and workforce training programs.

In order to make this commitment a reality, the Biden administration recently released a new draft mapping tool, the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. The administration is requesting comments from the public about this new tool, and it’s important that we gather as much input as possible to reflect the reality on the ground in environmental justice communities across the country.

Under Justice40…

…40% of the benefits of federal government spending in the following categories must go to disadvantaged communities:

  • Climate change
  • Clean energy and energy efficiency
  • Clean transit
  • Affordable and sustainable housing
  • Training and workforce development
  • Remediation and reduction of legacy pollution
  • Development of critical clean water infrastructure

What is the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool?

If you live in a community with pollution, high unemployment, low education rates, high electricity costs or energy burden, high risk of flooding or wildfires, or that is otherwise disadvantaged, the Justice40 initiative is intended to make it easier for your community to access federal resources, and to make sure that the benefits of government spending reach you and your neighbors.

With 40% of federal funding allocated to disadvantaged communities, that means federal agencies will have to make an effort to make their programs more accessible to the communities most in need. If you live in a disadvantaged community, that means it should now be easier for your local leaders or community groups to access those vital federal resources. But in order to be eligible, your community has to first show up on the map!

The C&EJ Screening tool is a mapping tool created to help federal agencies identify communities that are overburdened by pollution, under-resourced, or otherwise disadvantaged. The tool uses socioeconomic, environmental, health and climate data to help inform agency funding decisions and other decisions impacting those communities.

The screening tool identifies census tracts that should be considered disadvantaged for the purposes of the Justice40 Initiative.

map shows several Appalachian states mottled with gray

The beta version of the Climate and Economic Justice
Screening Tool is now available, and the White House Council on Environmental Quality is accepting feedback. Read the blog to learn more and for ways to give your feedback.

Why does the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool matter to me?

If you live in a community with pollution, high unemployment, low education rates, high electricity costs or energy burden, high risk of flooding or wildfires, or that is otherwise disadvantaged, the Justice40 initiative is intended to make it easier for your community to access federal resources, and to make sure that the benefits of government spending reach you and your neighbors.

With 40% of federal funding allocated to disadvantaged communities, that means federal agencies will have to make an effort to make their programs more accessible to the communities most in need. If you live in a disadvantaged community, that means it should now be easier for your local leaders or community groups to access those vital federal resources. But in order to be eligible, your community has to first show up on the map!

What makes a community “disadvantaged”?

Under the current Climate and Economic Justice screening tool, a community will be identified as disadvantaged if a combination of certain types of pollution or climate change risks are identified, along with certain levels of socioeconomic indicators such as poor health, low income or low life expectancy.

Pollution and climate factors

  • Expected agriculture loss from climate change
  • Expected building loss rate from climate change
  • Expected population loss from climate change
  • Energy burden (high percentage of income going to energy bills)
  • Particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air
  • Diesel particulate matter exposure
  • Traffic proximity and volume
  • Lead paint exposure
  • Low median home value
  • High housing cost burden
  • Proximity to hazardous waste facilities
  • Proximity to superfund sites
  • Proximity to facilities with hazardous substances
  • Wastewater discharge
  • Asthma; diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Low life expectancy



Socioeconomic factors

  • Income
  • Higher ed enrollment
  • Linguistic isolation
  • Unemployment
  • Poverty level
  • High school degree attainment rate

See more details about the datasets and methodology
for determining whether a community is disadvantaged.



Why is my community not showing up as disadvantaged?

There are several reasons why your community might not be showing up. Currently, there are a limited number of types of pollution or climate change factors being considered in the tool. Because it is a national tool, the administration can only use data for types of pollution or other risks that have a national scope. However, we know that certain types of pollution are missing from the tool, and Appalachian Voices is working to ensure those are incorporated. For example, we know that coal mines, coal-fired power plants, and brownfields are currently not reflected in the tool. But we need your help to improve the tool. Keep reading to see how you can provide feedback to ensure your community gets the resources it needs!

It could also be that your community’s level of or proximity to pollution is lower than the minimum threshold set in the tool. In other words, the tool only considers communities disadvantaged if they have high levels of pollution, or are within a certain distance of a hazardous facility.

Finally, the tool requires a community to meet multiple criteria. For example, just having a high level of particulate matter in the air will currently not result in the tool identifying your community as disadvantaged; your community must also rate poorly in another area, such as having a certain level of low-income residents or low educational attainment.

What can I do to provide feedback?

If you think your community should be considered disadvantaged but it’s not showing up in the tool, or if you are aware of types of pollution or certain datasets that could be incorporated into the tool to better reflect the reality on the ground, your input is important. You have several options:

Reach out to us

Reach out to our staff directly by April 15 and we’ll incorporate your feedback and ideas into Appalachian Voices’ comment to the administration.

Send your feedback directly to the administration by May 25 (deadline extended!):

Attend the White House Council on Environmental Quality public listening sessions and training webinars

Training Webinars on beta version of CEJST:

  • Wednesday, March 9, 2022 at 4pm ET. Register
  • Thursday, March 10, 2022 at 4pm ET. Register
  • Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at 4pm. ET Register

Public Listening Sessions on beta version of CEJST:

  • Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at 4pm ET. Register
  • Friday, April 15, 2022 at 4pm ET. Register

A committed advocate for clean energy policy, education and outreach, Chelsea is our Legislative Director based in our Norton, Va., office. When she is not advancing renewable energy, you can likely find her enjoying one of Southwest Virginia's many scenic trails.


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