Community Input on State Environmental Justice Screening Tools

Date01 June 2022
AuthorLaura Grier, Delia Mayor, Brett Zeuner, and Paul Mohai
by Laura Grier, Delia Mayor, Brett Zeuner, and Paul Mohai
Laura Grier works for an environmental philanthropy focused on climate and clean energy. Delia
Mayor is a Senior Research Associate at a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Brett Zeuner is the
Manager of the Environmental Equity Program at the Foundation for California Community Colleges.
Paul Mohai is Professor in the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan,
a member of the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, and Lead Investigator on a
project to advance development and use of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s EJSCREEN.
number of environmental justice screening tools
and processes have been developed across the
United States in an eort to identify communities
experiencing environmental injustice. ese tools combine
environmental and demographic data sets, layer them over
a map, and present the map in a web-based format.1 Users
1. Charles Lee, A Game Changer in the Making? Lessons From States Advancing
Environmental Justice rough Mapping and Cumulative Impact Strategies,
50 ELR 10203 (Mar. 2020), available at
tice-through; Arianna Zrzavy et al., Addressing Cumulative Impacts: Lessons
Learned From Environmental Justice Screening Tool Development and Resis-
tance, 52 ELR 10111 (Feb. 2022), available at
can typica lly zoom in on a certain geographic area and see
data specic to that area.2 Environmental justic e screening
tools can help identif y vulnerable and di sproportionately
impacted communities, and can reect the cumulative
nature of environmental, social, and health-related impacts
that community members experience. Developing these
tools is one major step state and federal governments can
take to both better understa nd the cumulative nature of
environmental and social impacts a nd incorporate cumula-
tive impacts into their decisionmaking processes.3
At the national level, the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) maintains EJSCREEN, a publicly avail-
able online screening tool that combines environmental
and demographic data and displays environmental justice
indexes at the census block group level.4 EJSCR EEN d is-
plays six demographic data sets from the America n Com-
munities Survey and 11 environmental data sets. e tool
combines the demographic information with each environ-
mental indicator in an “Environmental Justice Index.”
In addition to EJSCREEN, 18 states—Cali fornia,
Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryl and, Mas-
sachusetts, Michiga n, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey,
New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania,
Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin—have a state-spe-
cic environmental justice screening tool in use or in the
process of development.5 Many of these state-level tools
2. Lee, supra note 1.
3. Id.
4. O  P, U.S. EPA, EJSCREEN E J
M  S T: EJSCREEN T D-
 (2019),les/2017-09/docu-
5. For information on the development and methodologies of these state-
specic screening tools, see California Oce of Environmental Health
Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), CalEnviroScreen,
calenviroscreen (last visited Apr. 18, 2022); Colorado Department of
Public Health and Environment, Colorado EnviroScreen, https://cdphe. (last visited Apr. 18, 2022); Press Release, Con-
Authors’ Note: We would like to acknowledge and thank the
many individuals who made this research possible. First, we
sincerely thank Michelle Martinez, former executive direc-
tor of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition (MEJC),
for her guidance and direction throughout this research. We
also thank MEJC coalition members for partnering with us
in this research and for the incessant and tireless work they
devote to advancing environmental justice in Michigan. Fi-
nally, we would like to thank the 30 environmental justice
advocates in Michigan who allowed us to interview them
for this Comment. We are grateful for their time and for their
providing us a window into their lives and experiences.
This research was originally conducted at the Univer-
sity of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainabil-
ity, which acknowledges the university’s origins through an
1817 land transfer from the Anishinaabek, the Three Fires
People: the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Bodewadami, as well
as Meskwahkiasahina (Fox), Peoria, and Wyandot. The
institution’s full land acknowledgement can be found at
Copyright © 2022 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®,, 1-800-433-5120.

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