On October 11, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) announced the second update to the Agency’s environmental justice (EJ) mapping and screening tool — EJSCREEN 2.1. EPA uses the tool to identify areas that may have higher environmental burdens and inform several Agency functions, including permitting, enforcement, outreach, and compliance. This is the fourth EJ mapping or screening tool launched or updated this year by the Biden administration, following the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s (DHHS) Environmental Justice Index (EJI), EPA’s EJSCREEN 2.0, and the White House’s Climate and Economic Justice Tool.
EPA’s first update to the tool, EJSCREEN 2.0, added new indicators including an environmental indicator on underground storage tanks; a socioeconomic indicator on unemployment; a health indicator based on life expectancy, asthma, and heart disease based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; indicators on “critical service gaps,” including food deserts, medically underserved areas, and areas with limited broadband internet access; and a climate change indicator with data on droughts, sea-level rise, and wildfires.
EPA’s EJSCREEN 2.1 includes new data and capabilities that EPA expects will improve the screening tool’s functionality and make it “more transparent and predictable.” Among other additions:
- EPA is integrating more recent demographic data from the 2016–20 American Community Survey.
- The updated tool includes environmental, demographic, and index data for U.S. territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
- The update also has a mapping function that will allow users to review multiple EJ indices simultaneously, which EPA reports will offer “a cumulative” view of burdens on EJ communities.
EPA’s launch of EJSCREEN 2.1 follows DHHS’ August 10, 2022, launch of the EJI — a new mapping tool that DHHS also reports can measure cumulative effects of environmental burden. The EJI provides one EJ score for each census tract, which DHHS indicated is the first national, location-based tool that can be used to identify at-risk communities.