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.


Preliminary Disadvantaged Communities Designation – October 2021

CalEPA’s October Preliminary Designation of Disadvantaged Communities can be found here: English (.pdf) | Spanish (.pdf)

CalEPA has determined that the improvements found in CalEnviroScreen Version 4.0 warrant a reconsideration of designation practices and the eventual issuance of a new designation of disadvantaged communities. Based upon the aforementioned factors and the updated results in CalEnviroScreen Version 4.0, CalEPA is proposing to identify the following as disadvantaged communities

  • Highest scoring 25% of census tracts from CalEnviroScreen 4.0, along with census tracts scoring in the top 5% of the Pollution Burden indicator but without an overall CalEnviroScreen score due to due to unavailable or unreliable Population Characteristics indicator data and score.
  • All census tracts currently identified as disadvantaged but not in the highest scoring 25% census tracts in version 4.0 (i.e., the highest scoring 25% of census tracts in CalEnviroScreen 3.0 along with the census tracts with the highest 5% Pollution Burden scores, but without an overall CalEnviroScreen score).
  • All areas within federally recognized tribal boundaries in California, as described in section IV in the October 2021 Preliminary Designation of Disadvantaged Communities Pursuant to Senate Bill 535 Notice.

CalEPA Welcomes Public Comments on the Preliminary Designation

CalEPA welcomes comments on its preliminary designation until Nov. 16, 2021. Comments can be sent to comments@calepa.ca.gov.

The public was also invited to participate in two virtual public workshops (en español: Talleres Públicos Virtuales) on the methods used to identify the parts of California that are designated as “disadvantaged communities.” CalEPA held the workshops on Oct. 26, 2021, from 2-3:30 p.m. and Oct. 27, 2021, from 4-5:30 p.m. 

View the slides from the workshops.


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.


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 2021, CalEPA announced it is accepting applications for its 2021 grant cycle. For each project, the maximum grant amount is $50,000. CalEPA plans to announce the grant awards in the fall of 2021. The grant term will be 18 months, approximately from fall 2021 through Spring 2023.

In July 2020, CalEPA awarded more than $1 million in grants to for 28 projects. Read the 2020 project summaries and the press release.

Public Comment Invited on Preliminary Designation of Disadvantaged Communities (through Nov. 16, 2021)

The public is invited to submit public comment on CalEPA’s preliminary disadvantaged communities designation update, pursuant to SB535. The designation is used to determine eligibility for a significant share of the California Climate Investments from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and other benefits from specific Climate Investment programs. Public comments is invited through Nov. 16, 2021, and can be submitted to comments@calepa.ca.gov.

CalEPA also held two workshops online on Oct. 26, 2021, from 2-3:30 PM, and Oct. 27, 2021, from 4-5:30 PM, to solicit feedback on the designation.

View the slides from the workshops.