Justice 40 and race: Biden administration prioritizes

The White House Council on Environmental Quality’s methodology is responsible for accounting for income, health and climate risks and a community’s proximity to polluting industries or wastewater.
But this specifically leaves race as a factor in determining whether a community qualifies for the initiative, prompting some pushback from environmental justice advocates who say the issue of Justice 40 Environmental racism has to be addressed.

A CEQ official said the White House team fully “acknowledges the role of racism and race in determining where and what the environmental burdens are in this country,” and it also wants the tools to be legal. be passed.

“We want to make sure this device is legally sustainable,” the CEQ official told reporters. “I think people both within the government and externally have made it clear that we cannot use race as an indicator to guide resource decisions on whether to have a ceiling for legal protection. ”

Research has shown that communities of color often face disproportionate exposure to air pollution that causes respiratory diseases. The American Lung Association’s 2021 “State of the Air” report showed that people of color are 61% more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant.

Studies have also found that communities of color are more likely to be on the front lines of the climate crisis.

“Many American communities are still living with water that isn’t safe to drink, housing that isn’t built to withstand climate change-fueled storms, and to benefit from the nation’s bright and clean future. There are very few opportunities,” said CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory. “The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool will help federal agencies ensure that the benefits of the nation’s climate, clean energy and environmental programs are ultimately reaching communities that have been left behind for too long.”

New York City residents sort out damaged and destroyed objects after a night of deadly flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida in September 2021.

New York state passed a law in 2019 with a similar goal, requiring 35% to 40% of climate and clean energy funds to be invested in “disadvantaged communities.” By including race as a qualifying category, New York’s methodology diverges from the White House’s approach.

The White House is launching a website with a searchable map to identify the most environmentally disadvantaged communities nationwide. A census tract on a map by the CEQ would be considered a disadvantaged community if it exceeds at least one of the eight criteria in both the climate and environmental risk category and the socioeconomic risk category.

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CEQ officials said federal agencies will be the primary users of the equipment, identifying which communities may qualify for federal climate and clean energy funding. Friday’s launch is a beta version of the website, and CEQ will take public comment on the tool for 60 days.

“We want to build the tool in a way that reflects the realities that racism and race are big determining factors in where pollution is concentrated in this country,” the official said.

The CEQ officer was not aware of the potential legal challenges to the equipment. The official said the Biden administration hopes state and local communities will take advantage of the tool to see who is eligible for federal funding.

“I think what we are hoping for is that people will find the device and give us feedback on it and help build this tool in a way that reflects the experiences and preferences in their own states,” the official said. it shows.”

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