Last week, the White House released a beta version of a tool intended to govern the implementation of its much-publicized “Justice40” program. Justice40 promises that at least 40 percent of the benefits of government spending on infrastructure, clean energy, and other climate-related programs will be directed to disadvantaged communities. The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, or CEJST, is meant to address the thorny question of which communities, exactly, are flagged as “disadvantaged.”
More than a year in the making, the tool considers 21 different climate, environmental, health, and economic indicators. To be considered disadvantaged, typically a community must be above the 65th percentile in terms of the proportion of its population that is low income, and it must also be in the 90th percentile or above in one of the environmental or health indices.
Conspicuously absent from the tool’s slate of indicators is race, despite its strong and well-documented correlation with environmental burdens. The Biden administration has come under fire from environmental justice advocates for exclud... Read more