The Interim Guidance, which describes the Justice40 Initiative as “a critical part of the Administration’s whole-of-government approach to advancing environmental justice,” incorporates recommendations made by the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) on May 13, 2021 (WHEJAC Recommendations). We previously reported on this development.
The Interim Guidance provides a working definition for “disadvantaged communities,” establishes categories of eligible projects (“covered projects”), instructs agencies to develop certain methodology for calculating benefits to disadvantaged communities, and launches the Justice40 pilot program, which is expected to provide a “blueprint for other agencies” to implement the Justice40 Initiative across the federal government.
Working Definition of Disadvantaged Communities
The definition of disadvantaged communities is critical to the Justice40 Initiative framework, as it will be used to identify the recipients of funding. Consistent with the WHEJAC Recommendations, the Interim Guidance includes a broad set of indicators for agencies to use when determining whether a community is disadvantaged. These include
- low income, high and/or persistent poverty, high unemployment and underemployment
- racial and ethnic residential segregation
- linguistic isolation
- high housing cost burden and substandard housing, distressed neighborhoods
- high transportation cost burden and/or low transportation access
- disproportionate environmental stressor burden and high cumulative effects
- limited water and sanitation access and affordability
- disproportionate effects from climate change
- high energy cost burden and low energy access
- jobs lost through the energy transition
- access to healthcare
The final definition of disadvantaged communities will be published concurrently with the establishment of the geospatial Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool ordered by President Joseph R. Biden in Executive Order 14008.
The Interim Guidance identifies categories of projects eligible for funding by the Justice40 Initiative. These seven categories, which closely align with the WHEJAC Recommendations, include
- climate change
- clean energy and energy efficiency
- clean transportation
- affordable and sustainable housing
- remediation and reduction of legacy pollution
- critical clean water and waste infrastructure
- related training and development
Agencies are instructed to work with OMB to review and determine whether programs fall within the eligible project categories. OMB has compiled a list of covered programs.
Investments in Disadvantaged Communities
The White House and OMB also outlined the financial mechanisms that federal agencies may use to fund eligible projects and deliver benefits to disadvantaged communities. These include grants, direct payments, procurement of goods or services, covering staffing costs, and other investment mechanisms that may be used for eligible projects. Eligible funding of covered programs may also include fiscal year 2021 enacted appropriations, supplemental appropriations, prior year carryover from unobligated balances, and future fiscal year appropriations.
Calculation of Benefits
Benefits will be determined at the program level. The Interim Guidance directs each agency to engage with stakeholders and establish a methodology for calculating the benefits from each applicable covered program. By September 18, 2021, agencies are directed to provide to OMB a description of the types of benefits that would be generated by identified programs. Agencies must deliver a methodology for calculating those benefits by December 17, 2021.
Launch of Justice40 Pilot Program
The Justice40 Pilot Program identifies 21 priority programs for certain agencies to implement that are designed to provide benefits to disadvantaged communities. The pilot program is expected to provide a blueprint for the governmentwide Justice40 implementation.
The 21 priority programs, which were selected through a consultation process with environmental justice stakeholders, the WHEJAC, and the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, include several Environmental Protection Agency programs, such as the Diesel Emissions Reductions Act Program, Brownfields Program, and Superfund Remedial Program and the Department of Transportation’s Low or No Emissions Vehicle Program.
Each agency with a pilot program is directed to develop a stakeholder engagement plan by August 19, 2021. By September 18, 2021, each agency is directed to develop a draft implementation plan and methodology for calculating benefits.
According to a July 20, 2021, White House blog, the White House and OMB will provide additional guidance following the completion of the Justice40 Pilot Program. The forthcoming guidance will include instructions related to the Environmental Justice Scorecard used to monitor the federal government’s progress toward the Justice40 goal.