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White House Seeks Public Input on Environmental Equity Scorecard

Aug. 3, 2022, 8:19 PM

The White House is asking the public to weigh in on an environmental justice scorecard to hold federal agencies accountable as it tries to make good on its vow for more equitable treatment of people of color and other disadvantaged communities.

The Environmental Justice Scorecard, among the key environmental equity pledges President Joe Biden made in his first weeks in office, is to ensure Biden’s “all of government” approach brings tangible results to marginalized communities that often bear the brunt of pollution.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality is seeking public comment over the next two months on what is essential to include in the scorecard, the CEQ’s top environmental justice official said Wednesday.

The scorecard would be the federal government’s first broad measure of how it is faring in its efforts to help those suffering the most from environmental injustice, including low-income areas, communities of color, and tribal nations.

The initial scorecard is to organize agencies’ successes and failures into three broad measures, according to a Wednesday Federal Register notice seeking input on various issues:

  • One gauging regulatory, enforcement, and other actions agencies are taking to reduce harm to communities and broadly tackle environmental injustices;
  • A second category to measure the administration’s progress implementing its Justice40 and other environmental justice efforts; and
  • A third measure of efforts by agencies to revamp the way their decisions incorporate the priorities “and lived experiences of environmental justice communities.

‘Anybody and Everybody’

Getting the public to weigh in on the still-developing scorecard “gives anybody and everybody an opportunity to share back their thoughts on the vision of the scorecard and what should be in it,” Jalonne White-Newsome, CEQ’s senior director for environmental justice, said Wednesday at a meeting of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

She said the Biden administration is going to rely heavily on input from yet another panel focused on environmental equity—the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council—in further refining the scorecard.

“We are really going to lean into” the interagency panel because agencies “have to be on board” for the effort to succeed, she said.

The panel, launched by Biden to elevate environmental justice issues in the administration, called for a broad scorecard in a series of recommendations it issued in March. Among the recommendations was measuring whether agencies succeed or fall short in getting routine input from marginalized communities in federal decisions.

Environmental justice advocates say a publicly available scorecard of agencies’ efforts to make good on Biden’s pledge is key to holding them accountable in meeting his Justice40 pledge.

The plege calls for steering 40% of the overall benefits of clean energy, climate change, affordable housing, and certain other federal funding toward poorer and marginalized populations disproportionately affected by pollution.

But the scorecard is to look beyond Justice40 efforts to address broader successes or failures in tackling other environmental inequities, such as reducing environmental pollution and exposures borne disproportionately by marginalized communities.

Slow Progress

Progress on the scorecard, which is being drafted by the CEQ in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget, has been slow. It was originally set to be published by February 2022 under a climate change executive order Biden issued more than 18 months ago.

The Biden administration in recent weeks has announced hundreds of programs it considers covered by Justice40, at the EPA as well as the departments of Energy, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and other agencies including the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Energy Department on July 25 unveiled its own list of 146 programs it considers covered by Justice40.

Public comments are due to CEQ by Oct. 3.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bloombergindustry.com