The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been required to develop an environmental justice (EJ) mapping tool. They are currently accepting public input on the tool. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find out how you can help!

When one heavily polluting industry comes to a neighborhood it opens the door for countless others to follow- and they do. Often these communities are rural, low-income, and inhabited by people of color.

We have the opportunity now to weigh in on DEQ’s “community mapping tool”. When fully functional, this tool should assist in protecting communities from unfair and hazardous industry by informing the permitting process of which communities are at most risk for environmental injustice. Here are the points we think are worth raising-

DEQ is now calling this a “community mapping tool” rather than “EJ tool”- why?
  • Words matter. The creation of this tool was prompted by a title VI settlement which specifically assured an environmental justice mapping tool.  If this tool is intended to identify pollution, health disparities, and other characteristics that result in environmental injustice, then the name should be in accordance with its origin and intended purpose.
What are the numbers and formulas that provide accountability?
  • A useful tool should offer some metric by which to measure what is acceptable for permitting. Does this tool provide numerical values by which DEQ and the community can determine how requests are permitted or denied based on their scale of environmental justice? How many schools will be in proximity for a hazardous industry to considered unacceptable? How many impaired waterways? Brownfields? Superfund sites? landfills? Number of individuals with asthma? How do these calculations differ from three miles away? from one mile away? What formula(s) are used to make this tool function? And how will this information be shared with communities to provide shared understanding of the tool that will determine industry in their neighborhoods?
When will this tool be implemented?
  • The May 2018 Title VI Settlement between DEQ and REACH, NCEJN and Waterkeeper requires DEQ to develop the mapping tool by April 1, 2019. DEQ has stated that it wants this EJ mapping tool to be applicable to all permits that it issues, and we support that goal. But we want this tool up and running and to be utilized in consideration of the 2019 Swine General Permit.
How does this tool measure against existing tools? Whose input was requested in forming this tool?
  • Several systems already exist like the CAlEnvironScreen, The EPA’s EJ Screen, and the researcher’s tool currently being developed by UNC’s school of public health. Did DEQ consult with these existing models in development of their tool? Organizations like REACH, the NCEJN, and Waterkeeper Alliance work regularly with impacted communities. Has DEQ reached out to include their input in determination of what comprises a useful tool?

How can you help?

Speak out! Take the online DEQ survey and share your thoughts. We have proposed survey responses!

FYI: You do not have to put your name on the survey. You have the ability to remain anonymous.