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Ramya Sivasubramanian’s Blog

How does your community rank on health and environment?

Ramya Sivasubramanian

Posted April 23, 2014 in Curbing Pollution, Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment

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Want to know how your community stacks up on exposure and vulnerability to environmental and health burdens? If you live in California, there's a tool for that.

The California Environmental Protection Agency has released a new version of its CalEnviroScreen tool. It provides an objective measure of a community's exposure and vulnerability to environmental and health burdens, ranked in comparison to all other communities statewide. And it’s now available at a more detailed, community-scale level, by census tract instead of zip code.

Enter your address here to see how your community ranks overall and on each of the 19 criteria -- ranging from air quality to water quality to hazardous and solid waste -- that go into the overall score. Surprised?

If you live in the Central Valley, many parts of the Los Angeles area, or the Inland Empire, chances are that CalEnviroScreen puts your community in the top 10 or 20% most highly burdened statewide. And this is one of those times where you don't want a high score.

Using this tool to identify the cumulative burdens and environmental injustice faced by such communities is just the first step. According the accompanying draft report, CalEPA plans to use this tool in "administering environmental justice grants, promoting greater compliance with environmental laws, prioritizing site-cleanup activities and identifying opportunities for sustainable economic development in heavily impacted neighborhoods." Other agencies, task forces, and groups may also use this tool to promote environmental justice.

That could be great news for the millions of Californians living in these overburdened areas – and for us all. My NRDC colleagues and I will be participating in CalEPA’s upcoming webinar and public workshops to learn more about the tool and provide feedback to help ensure it accurately reflects and is used to address the real-life burdens of communities across the state. By addressing environmental pollution in the areas worst off, we make the air, water, and land cleaner and healthier for everyone.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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