California Environmental Justice Alliance

Building Healthy Communities from the Ground up

CalEPA releases Cumulative Impact tool

CalEPA has released a new tool that identifies highly impacted communities, called “CalEnviroScreen.” Check out this cool mapping tool to see how your zip code ranks! The full report on the tool is available here. CEJA staff members were featured in this NPR California Watch feature on the tool and on the front page in this San Francisco Chronicle article. The Modesto Bee also had a good editorial on the tool.

Why are cumulative impacts important and what will this tool do?

Low-income communities and communities of color have been bearing the brunt of pollution for too long — too many of our communities suffer from asthma, cancers, and other illnesses borne from heavy industrial pollution. Our neighborhoods face a daily onslaught of toxins from multiple facilities, not just one factory or highway. This pollution combines with on-the-ground realities of unemployment and poverty to create devastating living conditions.

Unfortunately, environmental regulations only look at pollution on a case-by-case basis and in isolation, rather than the “cumulative impacts” of toxins, socioeconomic stressors, and public health burdens. While the Green Zones Initiative recognizes that we can all breathe easier and live better when we improve conditions for those most impacted, it can be difficult for policy makers to identify highly impacted communities.

CalEnviroScreen uses a scientific methodology to accurately and consistently identify highly impacted areas. With CalEnviroScreen, we can link identified communities to visionary policies that can transform overburdened areas into thriving communities.

CEJA worked hard to ensure CalEnviroScreen includes the indicators that are critical to assessing cumulative impacts, such as race, linguistic isolation, and diesel pollution. While the tool is not perfect, it is a good starting place and the time is long past to take action on this issue! We will continue to advocate for improvements in the tool, and will be working on the next most important step: actually getting it used in state policy to begin transforming toxic hotspots into Green Zones!.