On January 27, 2023, the White House Office of Management and Budget, Council on Environmental Quality, and Climate Policy Office released an “Addendum to the Interim Implementation Guidance for the Justice40 Initiative, M-21-28, on using the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST),” notifying federal agency and department heads of developments in the use of maps and indicators to assist in defining, identifying, and directing benefits of federal investments to disadvantaged communities.
Per the expanded guidance,
Federal agencies should now start using the CEJST to identify geographically defined disadvantaged communities for any covered programs under the Justice40 Initiative and for programs where a statute directs resources to disadvantaged communities, to the maximum extent possible and permitted by law. Agencies shall use best efforts to transition to using the CEJST as expeditiously as possible. By the start of fiscal year 2024 (i.e., October 2023), agencies are expected to use the CEJST for any new covered investments that fall under the Justice40 Interim Guidance.2 Many agencies have already taken actions, such as issuing Notices of Funding Opportunities (NOFOs), which specify the use of another tool or methodology for geographically identifying disadvantaged communities that is otherwise consistent with the Justice40 Interim Guidance. For these existing covered programs with open funding announcements, agencies are not expected to switch to using the CEJST. Rather, as agencies issue new funding announcements for covered programs, agencies are expected to use the CEJST to geographically identify disadvantaged communities, to the maximum extent permitted by law.
In a footnote, the guidance elaborates on the possibility of using state environmental justice screening tools so long as they confirm to Justice40 guidance:
For example, if a program has a statutory definition of the target beneficiaries, the Federal agency may not be able to legally require funding applicants to use the CEJST. However, to promote uniformity across the government, Federal agencies should identify ways to encourage use of the CEJST. If the use of other environmental justice screening tools, such as those developed by some states, would be allowed, then the relevant agency should ensure that there are robust safeguards and minimum criteria in place that conform to the Justice40 Interim Guidance. Greater uniformity in the identification of communities that are disadvantaged, marginalized, overburdened, and underserved will reduce confusion and tension between programs, and promote consistency in outreach and engagement across the Federal family. In addition, communities will better understand if they are prioritized for benefits across a wide swath of programs.
During the NASEO Energy Equity Committee session held at the NASEO Energy Policy Conference on February 8, 2023 in Washington, D.C., representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity and the U.S. Joint Office of Energy and Transportation walked through key differences between CEJST and other disadvantaged community mapping tools (including the Department of Energy’s Energy Justice Dashboard), and led a discussion about metrics and data sources that can be used to support Justice40 investments. To view their presentation, please click here. Future meetings of NASEO’s Equity Committee will examine this guidance further and continue to help State and Territory Energy Offices put it into practice. To learn more about the committee, please contact Maddie Koewler at firstname.lastname@example.org.