Author: ECC Staff   Public: 12/19/2022  Emerald Cities Collaborative

I . The Justice40 Initiative: A Two Year Look Back

This January marks two years since President Biden signed Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad establishing the Justice40 Initiative. Through this Initiative, the Biden-Harris Administration has committed to ensuring that at least 40% of key federal investments–investments in climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, and the development of critical clean water infrastructure–benefit disadvantaged communities.

Since the Administration announced the Justice40 Initiative, Emerald Cities has been tracking the Administration’s efforts to embed equity throughout the way its agencies implement their programs and funding opportunities. While we are still waiting for several key Justice40 related deliverables from the White House–such as final Justice40 Implementation Guidance and the first iteration of the federal Environmental Justice Scorecard–here’s an overview of what we’ve seen thus far:

  • CEQ released their Interim Implementation Guidance outlining the initial steps each federal agency must take towards implementing the Justice40 Initiative.
  • The White House launched their Environmental Justice website to house Justice40 and Environmental Justice related news and updates.
  •  The Department of Energy (DOE) released their Justice40 General Guidance to help funding applicants understand how DOE will be integrating Justice40 into their programs and funding opportunities,
  • Federal agencies started releasing their Justice40 programs.

II. The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool Version 1.0

Last month, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released version 1.0 of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST). Up until this point, while available for public use, CEJST was still in its testing phase. Now that version 1.0 of CEJST has been released, federal agencies will be expected to use the interactive mapping tool to ensure Justice40 program benefits are reaching disadvantaged communities. 

The creation of CEJST was first announced within Executive Order 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad–the same Executive Order that established the Justice40 Initiative–as a means to help federal agencies identify communities that are underserved and overburdened by the impacts of climate change and historical environmental harms. However, after CEQ released the beta version of CEJST, the Tool’s accuracy was immediately called into question due its failure to consider race as an indicator to identify disadvantaged communities despite race being one of the strongest indicators of proximity to heavy pollution. 

Since version 1.0 of CEJST was released, CEQ  announced several updates in an attempt to alleviate the concerns expressed during the Tool’s testing phase. Some of the more prominent updates include the following:

  • Communities will be considered disadvantaged if they sit on lands of federally recognized Indigenous Tribes.
  • Data indicators were updated to account for redlining, the lack of green space and indoor plumbing, water pollution, and proximity to abandoned mines and formerly used defense sites.
  • Demographic data was added; however, this was added for information purposes only.

While these updates are a step in the right direction, CEJST still doesn’t use race as an indicator to identify

underserved communities and, while CEQ is working on a framework, the Tool  doesn’t have the capacity to calculate the cumulative impacts of environmental and economic harms in order to accurately identify disadvantaged communities.

If you’d like more information on the updates to CEJST, you can watch an overview of the updates here. CEQ has also indicated that they will be hosting additional opportunities for public engagement around the Tool. While CEQ has not announced any upcoming dates for public engagement sessions, you can sign up to receive updates from CEQ here

III. Resources

The White House released their Guidebook to the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This Guidebook provides a breakdown of each of the programs funded through the IRA with a high level overview of how much funding is available, the type of funding, who’s eligible for funding, how the funding can be used, and links to any relevant announcements, such as request for information or funding opportunity announcements. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created a webpage for their environmental justice related grants, funding and technical assistance opportunities. You can find that webpage here

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released Federal Guidance on incorporating Indigenous Knowledge in federal research, policy, and decision making.

Harvard’s Environmental and Energy Law Program provided a Status Update on the Biden Administration’s climate and environmental justice initiatives.

Interested in how the Administration’s Agencies have been implementing Justice40 and incorporating Equity and Environmental Justice concerns into their Agency missions? Check out ECC’s quick reference guide here.

IV. On the Horizon

ECC Presents: The Justice40 Initiative and Opportunities for Community Benefits 

In January, Emerald Cities Collaborative will be hosting the first of a three part webinar series on building community benefits. In this first webinar, participants will gain an understanding of the Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, highlight the impacts of Justice40 on federal spending bills,– such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, –and  identify what tools exist to support communities’ engagement with these resources. A save the date with registration information will be coming soon!

We want to know your thoughts! Have you heard about the Justice40 Initiative and how did you hear about it? What do you know about Justice40 and do you want to know more? You can answer these questions and more in our short survey linked below.

We want to know your thoughts! Have you heard about the Justice40 Initiative and how did you hear about it? What do you know about Justice40 and do you want to know more? You can answer these questions and more in our short survey linked below.