State health department, CSU team start work on environmental justice mapping tool

Climate Equity Data Viewer

The Climate Equity Data Viewer

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and a team from Colorado State University are gathering community and stakeholder input on a new environmental justice mapping tool, CO EnviroScreen.

“Taking action on environmental justice requires identifying low-income communities and communities of color that are impacted by many different sources of pollution,” said Joel Minor, environmental justice program manager at CDPHE. “But we can’t do that unless we put lived experience and community expertise front and center as we create this essential tool.”

CO EnviroScreen will enable users to identify disproportionately impacted communities based on the definition in Colorado’s Environmental Justice Act (HB21-1266). Its fundamental goal is to help users maximize funding and resources for interventions to avoid, reduce, and repair environmental harms. For example, the Environmental Justice Advisory Board at CDPHE will use EnviroScreen to determine where to distribute environmental justice grants created by the new law.

The Environmental Justice Act definition of disproportionately impacted communities includes low-income communities, communities of color, and housing cost-burdened communities. Until CO EnviroScreen is finalized, stakeholders can use a new draft map layer in the updated Climate Equity Data Viewer to identify census block groups that meet those three criteria. CDPHE welcomes feedback on the draft map layer, which can be sent to

CO EnviroScreen will replace the Climate Equity Data Viewer when it is finalized in summer 2022, and it will build on the vital public input that shaped the initial tool. Community members will be invited to test CO EnviroScreen in early 2022 before CDPHE launches the final version. “We want to do our best to ensure CO EnviroScreen becomes a trusted resource to address environmental injustices in Colorado,” said Josie Plaut, project lead for the CSU team. “We’re committed to using what we learn in our community sessions to shape and improve CO EnviroScreen, both in the development phase and beyond.”

CDPHE selected CSU’s Institute for the Built Environment and Geospatial Centroid team to develop CO EnviroScreen, along with Dr. David Rojas of CSU’s Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. The CSU team brings a wealth of experience in engaging Colorado’s disproportionately impacted communities and working with stakeholders, in addition to the technical expertise needed to produce an easy-to-use resource for Colorado’s disproportionately impacted communities and the organizations that serve them.

The team invited all Coloradans, especially people who live in communities disproportionately impacted by environmental health risks, to join a virtual community meeting on Sept. 20. The team wanted to learn which topics are most important and how to make the tool as useful as possible for the communities it is intended to serve.

Learn more about the project on the department’s CO EnviroScreen web page.

The Institute for the Built Environment is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.