US unveils tool to direct green investments to disadvantaged communities

WASHINGTON, Feb 18 (Reuters) – The White House on Friday launched a beta version of a tool that will be used to determine where to invest billions of federal dollars to bring clean energy and infrastructure to disadvantaged communities, a key step in fulfilling a promise by the Biden administration to prioritize environmental justice.

The Environmental Quality Council has unveiled the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, used to map and identify communities most in need of investment by weighing income levels and more than two dozen people. socio-economic, health and environmental indicators.

The software has been in development since early last year with input from the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council as a key contribution to President Joe Biden’s “Justice40” initiative, a goal that He set out early in his presidency to ensure that 40% of the benefits of federal investments in clean energy flow to communities swamped by pollution.

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“The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool will help federal agencies ensure that the benefits of national climate, clean energy and environmental programs finally reach communities that have been left behind and left behind. for far too long,” said CEQ President Brenda Mallory. noted.

Using census tract data, the online program identifies communities as disadvantaged if they are above the 65th percentile for income and above the 90th percentile for any of 25 indicators ranging from local asthma rates to traffic and proximity to hazardous waste sites with unemployment.

But one indicator that is conspicuously absent is race. A Biden administration official told reporters the tool was designed to be “racially neutral” so it could withstand potential legal challenges.

This omission has disappointed some environmental justice advocates.

Sacoby Wilson, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health who helped develop a state-level screening tool for Maryland, said the decision not to use race as an indicator was Politics.

“The science is clear. Race is the biggest predictor of environmental risk,” he told Reuters.

“We are missing an opportunity by excluding race from the tool,” said Anthony Rogers-Wright, director of environmental justice at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “The tool does not tell the whole story of a community.”

The Environmental Protection Agency also on Friday launched a revamp of its own screening tool, EJSCREEN, which can be used to guide the development of environmental rules. L1N2M11WM

The CEQ will collect public feedback on the tool for 60 days.

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Reporting by Valérie Volcovici; Editing by Stephen Coates

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