One of President Joe Biden’s first executive orders promised that “disadvantaged communities” would receive at least 40 percent of the overall benefits of government spending on infrastructure, clean energy, and other climate-related programs. It’s a historic commitment to reducing pollution and bringing new investment to the areas most in need.
But who the “Justice40” program ends up serving rests, in large part, on a deceptively simple question: What defines a disadvantaged community?
While little has been released publicly about how this question is being adjudicated at the federal level, environmental justice leaders are currently grappling with it at the state level in New York, where the idea for Justice40 originated. In 2019, a coalition of Empire State environmental groups successfully lobbied for a similar provision to be included in a statewide climate change bill, now know as the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Now, several members of that coalition are participating in a working group that’s developing the state’s official definition for “disadvantaged communities,” or DACs, under the supervision of the state’s Department o... Read more