In the realm of sustainable development and responsible governance, the pursuit of environmental justice stands as a paramount objective. Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. In the United States, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) forms the bedrock of informed decision-making, ensuring federal agencies carefully consider the environmental impacts of their actions. To augment the NEPA process, inform decision makers, and address environmental inequalities, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a powerful tool known as EJScreen. In this article, we will delve into the EPA’s EJScreen tool and its profound significance in bolstering and aiding the NEPA process, while also championing the cause of environmental justice.
EJScreen, which stands for Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool, is a dynamic and user-friendly tool that aims to assist in identifying areas with potential environmental justice concerns and providing vital environmental data. It can help to find a wide range of data surrounding a project such as demographics, socioeconomic data, environmental justice communities, air quality data, water quality data, hazardous waste sites, toxic substance releases, nearby sensitive receptors (i.e., schools, hospitals, and places of worship), and more. The GIS based tool allows a resource area author to add a buffer radius around the specific project area. Then the NEPA practitioner can apply a variety of layers to the map to find pertinent information.
For example, the image to the right depicts a one-mile radius surrounding Scout Headquarters in Encinitas, California. The map shows key environmental metrics, mapping disadvantaged communities, including EPA regulated facilities, 100-year floodplains, and sensitive receptors (hospitals and schools). Additionally, the image below shows an example of EJScreen presenting areas of Clean Air Act nonattainment, or maintenance areas.
This powerful tool can help NEPA practitioners gather necessary data to support environmental impact assessments quickly and in one place. By leveraging the power of EJScreen, NEPA practitioners can better assess environmental justice concerns, access critical environmental data, create informative visual materials, and engage with communities effectively. Ultimately, this results in more robust NEPA documents that not only fulfill regulatory requirements but also contribute to a more sustainable and just future for all.
Scout strives to utilize the latest technology in preparing our NEPA documents. This is just one example of how we efficiently support our clients. If you need any NEPA support, contact us today at: firstname.lastname@example.org.