USEPA Releases Newest Version of Environmental Justice Screening Tool

On June 26th, the US EPA released the newest version of their Environmental Justice (EJ) Screening and Mapping Tool, EJScreen Version 2.2. The update focused on a redesign of the printable standard reports, new data sets including indexes on Toxic Releases to Air, and facility compliance data.

The new “Printable Standard Report” renamed the “EJScreen Community Report” has been redesigned to highlight an area’s demographic data, as well as EJ, health, and climate indexes. Data used in the screening tool has also been updated to use the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

EJScreen Version 2.2 includes a new 13th environmental indicator, Toxic Releases to Air. This indicator uses EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RESI) modeled toxicity-weighted concentrations in air of Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) listed chemicals. This data comes from annual TRI reporting that certain industrial and federal facilities are required to complete. Covered industrial and federal facilities are required to report annual releases of TRI-listed chemicals if the released and/or managed chemicals exceed a specified threshold. There are 770 listed TRI chemicals. TRI chemicals are known to cause cancer or other chronic human health effects, significant adverse acute human health effects, and/or significant adverse environmental effects.

In addition to the new environmental indicator and redesign of EJScreen’s output report, several new map layers were added to EJScreen Version 2.2, including the following:

  • Cancer – cancer (excluding skin cancer) prevalence among adults aged 18 or older
  • Persons with Disabilities – percent of all persons with disabilities
  • Lack of Health Insurance – percent of all persons without health insurance coverage
  • Housing Burden – The share of households that are both earning less than 80% of Housing and Urban Development’s Area Median Family Income and are spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs.
  • Transportation Access – uses an average of four transportation-related indicator percentiles, including Transportation Cost Burden, National Walkability Index, Percentage of Households with No Vehicle Available, and Mean Commute Time to Work.
  • Facility Compliance Status – uses the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) standard facility symbology to illustrate the programs each facility is regulated under, whether they are in noncompliance, and how long it has been since the last inspection.
  • EPA Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Disadvantaged Communities – Combined multiple data sets that can be used to determine whether a community is disadvantaged for the purposes of implementing programs under the IRA. The criteria used for this map layer are:
    • Any census tract that is included as disadvantaged in Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST),
    • Any census block group at or above the 90th percentile for any of EJScreen’s Supplemental Indexes when compared to the nation or state,
    • And/or any geographic area within Tribal lands and indigenous areas, as included in EJScreen

The EJScreen updates will enable community members, and federal and state regulators to examine facilities with additional detail. Specifically, the new Toxic Releases to Air environmental index and Facility Compliance Status and EPA IRA Disadvantaged Communities map layers highlight facilities located in areas of heavy TRI chemical releases, compliance violations, and disadvantaged communities.

Facilities in these areas could be subject to increased scrutiny resulting in more stringent permit conditions, permit delays, and denials.

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