Experts and advocates are calling on the Biden administration to explicitly include race in its definition of “disadvantaged” communities for the purposes of its environmental justice efforts while the administration worries about legal challenges, E&E News reports. In February, the Council on Environmental Quality released a preliminary version of Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool for determining which communities would qualify for additional funding, and did not explicitly include race as a factor in the tool’s list of 21 environmental, economic, and health indicators.
While the included factors correlate highly with race, without race, the list is incomplete, environmental justice experts, and many of the comments received by CEQ, say. “Race is the primary predictor of where polluting facilities are sited. It doesn’t matter what the income of that community is,” Peggy Shepard, head of New York-based WE ACT for Environmental Justice and co-chair of White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, told E&E News.
The administration appears to have designed the rule to withstand challenges before a Supreme Court hostile to race-conscious programs. A CEQ spokesperson told E&E, “Because this tool is indispensable to confronting long-standing environmental injustices, it must be built for the long run, be updated and improved over time, and endure.” (E&E News)