Governor Polis signs new definition of disproportionately impacted community into law
In 2021, the General Assembly created the Environmental Justice Action Task Force to study the multiple definitions of disproportionately impacted communities that applied to different state agencies and recommend changes. The Environmental Justice Action Task Force recommended combining all definitions into one that would apply to all state agencies.
On March 1, 2023, Governor Polis directed the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to implement this recommendation. CDPHE worked with many stakeholders through a legislative process to create a single definition that applies to all state agencies based on the Task Force’s recommendations.
On May 4, 2023, the legislature passed a bill for Electric Vehicle Charging And Parking Requirements, which implemented the Task Force’s recommendations to improve and standardize the definition of disproportionately impacted community. On May 18, Governor Polis officially signed the new definition of the disproportionately impacted community into law.
This new definition will reduce confusion, improve clarity and certainty for everyone involved, and allow agencies to use resources more efficiently.
What is in the new definition?
The new definition continues to define disproportionately impacted communities at the census block group scale. The Census block group scale is the smallest geographic scale of data available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Disproportionately impacted communities include:
- Low-income communities: Census block groups where more than 40% of households are at or below 200% of the federal poverty line.
- Communities of color: Census block groups where more than 40% of the population identify as anything other than non-Hispanic White.
- Housing cost-burdened communities: Census block groups where more than 50% of households spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs like rent or mortgage payments.
- Linguistically isolated communities: Census block groups where more than 20% of the population live in households where all adults speak a language other than English and speak English less than very well.
- Historically marginalized communities: Communities with a history of environmental racism created through redlining or anti-Black, anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant, or anti-Indigenous laws, policies, or practices that continue to experience present-day environmental health disparities.
- Cumulatively impacted communities: Communities where multiple factors, including socioeconomic stressors, vulnerable populations, disproportionate environmental burdens, vulnerability to environmental degradation or climate change, and lack of public participation may act cumulatively to affect health and the environment and may contribute to persistent environmental health disparities. Cumulatively impacted communities can be presumptively identified in one of two ways:
- They are in a census block group with a Colorado EnviroScreen score above the 80th percentile; or,
- They are in a census tract that the federal Council on Environmental Quality’s Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool identifies as disadvantaged.
- Tribal lands: The Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Reservations.
- Mobile Home Communities: Areas that meet the Department of Local Affairs’ definition of a Mobile Home Park.
What is changing with the new definition?
- Housing cost burden: The definition changed from 40% of households spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing costs to 50% of households spending more than 30% of their monthly income.
- Linguistic isolation: Linguistic isolation previously only was a factor for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Now it applies to all state agencies.
- History: Communities can now present evidence of historic discriminatory laws, policies, and practices. A historically marginalized community must also demonstrate current evidence of environmental health disparities to qualify as a disproportionately impacted community.
- Cumulative impacts: Communities above the 80th percentile in Colorado EnviroScreen now meets this part of the definition. The new definition also adds areas that meet the federal definition of disadvantaged community in the Council on Environmental Quality's Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.
- Mobile home parks: The new definition includes mobile home parks. It doesn’t matter if they are located in a Census block group that meets the definition in any other way.
- Tribal lands: The new definition includes the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Reservations.
We updated CO EnviroScreen to align with the new definition. Here are the updates we made to the tool:
- Colorado EnviroScreen has a new layer to show the areas that meet the updated definition
- A separate layer shows mobile home parks as they do not fit census block group boundaries. Here’s how you can access both layers.
- Colorado EnviroScreen continues to have a layer with the "old" definition of disproportionately impacted community. The old definition of disproportionately impacted community was used from July 2021 to May 2023. We are keeping that layer in Colorado EnviroScreen because some agencies adopted that “old” version into their regulations.
- We also added a layer to CO EnviroScreen showing the areas that meet the definition of Disproportionately impacted community for purposes of the May 2023 Air Quality Control Commission disproportionately impacted community permitting rulemaking.
- The CO EnviroScreen data download now includes data columns for the updated disproportionately impacted definition, prior disproportionately impacted definition, and the Air Quality Control Commission Reg. 3 definitions. The data are available for download here, and the field key is available here.
We are launching a process to start creating Colorado EnviroScreen 2.0! If you’d like to get engaged, please share your feedback on Colorado EnviroScreen 1.0 in this form or join our June 15 community engagement session.
If you have any questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A powerful new mapping tool for environmental justice
Colorado EnviroScreen is an interactive environmental justice mapping tool. Version 1.0 of Colorado EnviroScreen launched on June 28, 2022.
The tool enables users to identify disproportionately impacted communities based on the definition in Colorado’s Environmental Justice Act (HB21-1266) so that communities directly benefit from:
- Money and other resources. For example, CDPHE’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board will use EnviroScreen to determine where to distribute environmental justice grants created by the new law.
- Enhanced opportunities to participate in Air Quality Control Commission rulemaking and permitting decisions.
- Priority for enforcement and compliance initiatives under an agreement between CDPHE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Driven by community
Community voices and expertise were vital to making Colorado EnviroScreen useful to communities disproportionately impacted by environmental health risks. We engaged with more than 200 people in the course of developing Colorado EnviroScreen.
Community engagement for Colorado EnviroScreen prioritized disproportionately impacted communities across Colorado that have known or suspected disproportionate health risks from cumulative environmental exposures. Federal, state, local, and tribal governments, environmental justice organizations, community organizations, and businesses all provided input. The Colorado EnviroScreen team conducted stakeholder interviews, focus groups, and large community meetings, and has used that input to shape functionality and user experience.
We’re committed to continuous improvement with Colorado EnviroScreen. By listening to people’s lived experiences and tapping into community expertise, we can ensure Colorado EnviroScreen is a trusted tool that reflects the needs of the people and organizations it is intended to benefit. You can provide feedback at any time.
- All reports, guides, and resources
- Data, including GIS shp files
- Code for Colorado EnviroScreen (through Github)
On January 23, 2023, we updated the Disproportionately Impacted Community layer to include block groups that meet the cumulative impacts component of the definition of Disproportionately Impacted Community in the Environmental Justice Act. Based on the recommendations from the Environmental Justice Action Task Force, these are census block groups that have an EnviroScreen Percentile Score above 80. This added 79 block groups to the DI Community layer.
An archived version of the DI community layer is available upon request. Please note that if you are accessing the Disproportionately Impacted Community layer as part of a regulatory requirement adopted prior to January 2023, you should review the specific requirement to determine whether it includes areas that meet the cumulative impacts prong of the definition, or whether the regulation only includes areas the meet the demographic prong of the definition. Areas that meet the demographic component of the definition are still displayed in Colorado EnviroScreen, so you can still use the current version of the tool to identify these areas. Just make sure you note whether the census block group meets the definition of DI Community under one of the demographic factors or under the cumulative impacts prong.
On August 31, 2022, we corrected a bug that caused 6 census block groups that meet the definition of disproportionately impacted community to display as not meeting the definition in the data table within EnviroScreen. These block groups are now correctly displayed in all COEnviroScreen data. Note that prior to the bug fix, these census block groups did correctly display as disproportionately impacted communities on the DI Community Data Viewer, Climate Equity Data Viewer, and in the DRAFT Disproportionately Impacted Community GIS layer available for download on CDPHE's Open Data page. The bug only existed within Colorado EnviroScreen, data downloaded directly from Colorado EnviroScreen, and CDPHE Open Data GIS block group level EnviroScreen data. If you accessed disproportionately impacted community data from Colorado EnviroScreen for any of these census block groups prior to August 31, 2022, please re-download the data:
080350141104 in Douglas County
080410044021 in El Paso County
080439802001 and 080439803001 in Fremont County
080690010082 in Larimer County
081010003001 in Pueblo County
CDPHE Environmental Justice Program:
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