WASHINGTON – Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) joins his colleagues in a letter to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) urging it to prioritize transparency, community accessibility, and racial, economic and environmental justice in the design and implementation of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST). The CEJST is an integral part of President Joe Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which seeks to ensure that 40 percent of the beneficial investments in climate and clean energy are deployed in disadvantaged communities. As funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations, and previous COVID-19 recovery and response packages is distributed, it is more critical than ever that the federal government has an effective tool to map, monitor, and measure climate and economic hardships at the community level.
The letter was led by Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and also signed by Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).
“With so much depending on the successful implementation of the Justice40 Initiative, continuous engagement with stakeholders, advocates, and community experts will be critical to develop a tool that works for all,” the Senators write in the letter to CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory. “The catastrophic impacts of climate change are inextricably linked to health, economic, and racial injustice. All communities in the United States are facing powerful and frequent hurricanes, devastating wildfires, and tornadoes, but Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities face an extra burden: the burden of environmental racism. Pollution from fossil fuel extraction and combustion, toxic chemical spills, water contamination, and other environmental harms affect every facet of life for those exposed, from birth weight to educational outcomes. These communities also have been historically locked out of the resources needed to adapt to climate impacts, remediate past harms, and build a clean energy future—this tool, and the Justice40 Initiative, are key to addressing these inequities.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
The letter—which was developed in consultation with environmental justice groups, experts, and advocates—details recommendations for the CEQ’s ongoing work to improve and refine the tool. These recommendations include: adopting more metrics that indicate the interrelation between race and climate vulnerability, transit, clean energy, energy efficiency, and housing; developing a plan for public engagement and Tribal nation consultation that includes a way to factor community feedback into the tool; and developing a methodology for cumulative environmental justice scores that look at the aggregated hardships within a community. In the letter, the senators also advocate for the creation of an interagency task force on Environmental Justice mapping and an annual data audit.