The White House's Justice40 Program and the Racial Gap in Air Quality

The White House's Justice40 Program and the Racial Gap in Air Quality

Air pollution affects everyone, but it disproportionately impacts communities of color due to systemic inequalities such as residential segregation, poverty, and lack of access to healthcare.

The White House's Justice40 program aims to address this by directing 40% of federal environmental investments towards disadvantaged communities.

The (Justice40) program (launched July 2021) purposely omitted race from the process to ensure it is race-neutral.

However, a new study suggests that this may hinder the program's effectiveness in bridging the racial gap in air quality.

The study predicts concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) throughout the country.

PM 2.5: fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.

It compares the current "business as usual" trajectory with two alternative scenarios in which air quality in disadvantaged communities improves at double or quadruple the overall rate.

Despite the improvements, the pollution is expected to remain significantly worse for people of color.

This suggests that unless carefully implemented, the program may not work as hoped and could even widen the racial gap.

People of color in the U.S. breathe 14% more PM 2.5 pollution than the overall population.

That is staggering difference!

People with low incomes, regardless of race, are also exposed to more of this kind of pollution than the general population.

The investments included in Justice40, which span 19 federal agencies, amount to billions of dollars.

The program is a significant effort to address environmental inequalities, but it needs to be carefully implemented to achieve its goals.

Critics argue and criticize that the omission of race in the primary screening tool is a major flaw.

Race and ethnicity need to be considered to effectively address racial disparities in air quality, as they are the top indicators of air quality.

The White House could refine the existing screening tool by considering a spectrum of pollution and identifying which communities are the most burdened.

This approach would be more effective than dividing the population into two categories of "disadvantaged" and "not disadvantaged."

By taking a more refined approach and considering race in the screening process, the White House can work towards bridging the racial gap in air quality.

Air pollution has generally improved in the U.S. since the Clean Air Act of 1970. However, recent increases in wildfires have been erasing some of that progress.

Justice40 is a significant program, but it needs to be carefully and thoroughly implemented to achieve its goals.

By considering race and taking a more refined approach, the White House can bridge the racial gap in air quality and improve the health of communities of color.