Environmental Justice

Overview and Levels of Analysis

The quality of localized environments matters significantly to public health and individual well-being. SRPEDD supports Environmental Justice work and principles that seek to reverse legacies of environmental inequities across neighborhoods, create equitable access to environmental resources, and that center communities coping with disproportional environmental impacts that are also on the frontline of the worst effects of climate change.

There are at least three definitions of Environmental Justice (EJ) / Low Income and Disadvantaged Communities (LIDAC) populations that can be taken into consideration and cross-walked during a given planning analysis or implementation project.

  1. The federal government has identified Justice40 communities and mapped EJ areas in its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.
  2. The State of Massachusetts has defined and released mapped EJ populations.
  3. The SRPEDD region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has classified regionally significant disadvantaged communities.

Depending on the project, we need to understand policy implications, potential costs, and benefits for each nested level of EJ and LIDAC community.

Federal EJ Areas

At the federal level, the Administration created the Justice40 Initiative to confront and address decades of underinvestment in disadvantaged communities. The initiative will bring resources to communities most impacted by climate change, pollution, and environmental hazards. To center this effort, the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool provides locations of census tracts that are overburdened and underserved.

The tool uses datasets as indicators of burdens. The burdens are organized into categories. A community is highlighted as disadvantaged on the CEJST map if it is in a census tract that is (1) at or above the threshold for one or more environmental, climate, or other burdens, and (2) at or above the threshold for an associated socioeconomic burden. In addition, a census tract that is completely surrounded by disadvantaged communities and is at or above the 50% percentile for low income is also considered disadvantaged.

We encourage anyone interested in exploring the CEJST map in detail to navigate to the original webpage that hosts the map. It has the best dashboards for understanding the burden categories associated with each census tract.

We provide the online map below to demonstrate only the locations of burdened census tracts in the SRPEDD region.

State EJ Areas

In Massachusetts, an environmental justice population is a neighborhood where one or more of the following criteria are true:

  1. the annual median household income is 65 percent or less of the statewide annual median household income
  2. minorities make up 40 percent or more of the population
  3. 25 percent or more of households identify as speaking English less than "very well"
  4. minorities make up 25 percent or more of the population and the annual median household income of the municipality in which the neighborhood is located does not exceed 150 percent of the statewide annual median household income.

The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) most recently updated these areas in November 2022.

Regionally Significant EJ Areas

As a recipient of federal funds, SRPEDD, acting as staff to the Southeastern Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization (SMMPO), complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination based upon race, color and national origin. Additional federal nondiscrimination laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of age, sex and disability. To continually evaluate the impact of our work, SRPEDD staff identify areas of vulnerable or marginalized communities where the population exceeds regional averages for five factors (this analysis is updated with each new release of American Community Survey 5-year averages data):


  1. minority population
  2. low income population
  3. limited English proficiency population
  4. senior population
  5. disability population

For more information, see the Transportation Section's Public Participation webpage. In the map below, when you select a tab, you can also call up additional information by pressing the "i" info circle, or by clicking on map features.