Environmental Justice Program

What is Environmental Justice?

The principles of environmental justice call for fairness, regardless of race, color, national origin or income, in the development of laws and regulations that affect every community’s natural surroundings, and the places people live, work, play and learn.

California was one of the first states in the nation to codify environmental justice in statute. Beyond the fair treatment called for in code, leaders in the environmental justice movement work to include those individuals disproportionately impacted by pollution in decision making processes. The aim is to lift the unfair burden of pollution from those most vulnerable to its effects.

Environmental Justice Small Grants 

The CalEPA Environmental Justice (EJ) Small Grants help eligible non-profit (501(c)(3) IRS tax designated) community organizations and federally-recognized Tribal governments to address environmental justice issues in areas disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and hazards. The maximum grant amount is $50,000.

In March 2022, CalEPA awarded a record $4 million in grants to 84 projects. Read the 2022 project summaries and the press release. The grant term will be from April 2022 through December 2023.

CalEnviroScreen Version 4.0

CalEnviroScreen is the state’s environmental health screening tool that can has been used to help identify and address California communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution. Developed by CalEPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), it is an important tool in meeting CalEPA’s commitment to environmental justice for all. This latest version was released on October 13, 2021. You can read more about it in the press release, visit OEHHA’s CalEnviroScreen webpage or scroll down to explore the maps.

En espanol: Puede leer más sobre esto en el comunicado de prensa, visite la página web de OEHHA CalEnviroScreen, o explorar los resultados de CalEnviroScreen por tramo censal individual o por indicador.

In this update:  

  • All indicators contain the most recent available data.
  • There are improvements in the way some indicators are calculated to better reflect environmental conditions or population vulnerability to pollution.
  • One new indicator, Children’s Lead Risk from Housing, accounts for possible lead exposure from paint and other sources in or around the home.

Two Mapping Tools

Map of CalEnviroScreen 4.0 Results

Select to open in a new window. [En Español aquí]

Map of CalEnviroScreen 4.0 Indicators

Select to open in a new window.

Updated Disadvantaged Communities Designation (May 3, 2022)

CalEPA finalized in May 2022 the updated Designation of Disadvantaged Communities, pursuant to Senate Bill 535 (De León, 2012) and based on the recently updated CalEnviroScreen version 4.0. After holding two public workshops and considering all comments submitted on the Preliminary Designation, which was released in October 2021, CalEPA formally designates four categories of geographic areas as disadvantaged: 

  1. Census tracts receiving the highest 25 percent of overall scores in CalEnviroScreen 4.0
  2. Census tracts lacking overall scores in CalEnviroScreen 4.0 due to data gaps, but receiving the highest 5 percent of CalEnviroScreen 4.0 cumulative pollution burden scores 
  3. Census tracts identified in the 2017 DAC designation, regardless of their scores in CalEnviroScreen 4.0
  4. Lands under the control of federally recognized Tribes

For detailed explanation of each of the categories, please read the document:

English: Final Designation of Disadvantaged Communities Pursuant to Senate Bill 535 May 2022.

Español: Designación Final de Comunidades Desfavorecidas de Acuerdo con La Ley del Senado 535

The interactive map is available at Climate Investments for Disadvantaged Communities.