Justice40 row pic 1

On January 27, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Section 223 of that EO establishes the Justice40 Initiative, which directs 40% of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments – including investments in clean energy and energy efficiency; clean transit; affordable and sustainable housing; training and workforce development; the remediation and reduction of legacy pollution; and the development of clean water infrastructure – to flow to disadvantaged communities (DACs).

Justice40 Implementation at DOE

On July 20, 2021, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released Interim Implementation Guidance for the Justice40 Initiative, M-21-28 (OMB Interim Guidance), which has guided the Department’s work on Justice40 along with relevant statutory authorities.

Based on stakeholder engagement, priorities identified by White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC), and additional research, the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity identified eight policy priorities to guide DOE’s implementation of Justice40:

  1. Decrease energy burden in disadvantaged communities (DACs).
  2. Decrease environmental exposure and burdens for DACs
  3. Increase parity in clean energy technology (e.g., solar, storage) access and adoption in DACs.
  4. Increase access to low-cost capital in DACs.
  5. Increase clean energy enterprise creation and contracting (MBE/DBE) in DACs.
  6. Increase clean energy jobs, job pipeline, and job training for individuals from DACs.
  7. Increase energy resiliency in DACs.
  8. Increase energy democracy in DACs.
Justice40 row pic 2

Defining DACs

A unified, comprehensive definition of disadvantaged communities (DACs) is important for determining where benefits of climate and energy investments are or are not currently accruing, and for determining eligibility for future Justice40-related investments. 

Interim Guidance on Defining DACs

OMB Interim Guidance defines a community as either: 

  • a group of individuals living in geographic proximity (such as census tract),
  • or a geographically dispersed set of individuals (such as migrant workers or Native Americans), where either type of group experiences common conditions. 

DOE Working Definition of DACs

The DOE working definition for DACs has been developed by an internal and external collaborative research process and includes data for thirty-six (36) indicators collected at the census tract level. These 36 indicators can be grouped across the following categories (numbers in parenthesis show how many indicators fall in that category):

  • Fossil Dependence (2)
  • Energy Burden (5)
  • Environmental and Climate Hazards (10)
  • Vulnerability (socioeconomic, housing burden, transportation burdens, etc.) (19)

These indicators were selected based on a review of ten existing indices of disadvantage, recommendations from the WHEJAC, feedback from other jurisdictions designing similar energy justice programs (e.g., New York, California), stakeholder outreach, and interagency collaboration on the development of eligibility criteria for DOE’s Communities Local Energy Action Program (Communities LEAP).

Methodology to Identify Geographic DACs

Balancing both data reliability and locally specific information, DOE selected census tracts for the spatial unit used to define a geographic community. In many locations, a census tract is akin to a neighborhood. In more rural locations, a census tract may comprise an entire county. To identify the census tracts that could be considered DACs, the Justice40 team took four main steps: 

  1. For each census tract, we calculated the percentile values for each of the 36 indicators. 
  2. We summed the percentiles across the indicators to create a score for each tract. Each indicator is given equal weight. The final scores for each tract could range from 0 to 36, where 36 would represent the largest disadvantage. 
  3. Based on the score, we select the top 20 percent of census tracts in each state. This ensures that every state is represented.
  4. To ensure wealthier locations are not inadvertently included, DAC eligibility is further restricted based on income. A census tract selected in step 3 is identified as a DAC if at least 30% of households:
    1. are at or below 200% of Federal Poverty Level and/or
    2. are considered low-income households by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), defined as making 80% of area median income.

Tribal Lands and U.S. Territories

Federally recognized tribal land and U.S. territories in their entirety are categorized as DACs in accordance with OMB Interim Guidance “common conditions” definition of communities.

Tribal land is defined from the 2021 census boundaries for American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian lands (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021). U.S. territories - Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Virgin Islands, and Northern Marianas - use the same vintage as the ACS data (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019).

Explore the locations of DACs and tribal land on the Energy Justice Dashboard (BETA) here.

Nationwide, 13,581 census tracts were identified as DACs using this methodology (18.6% of 73,056 total U.S. census tracts).

The geospatial data and an excel spreadsheet of the underlying data are available below.

Download the DACs Geospatial Data Here

Download the DACs Excel Spreadsheet Here

DACs on the Energy Justice Dashboard (BETA)

The DOE Energy Justice Dashboard (BETA), which tracks DOE-specific investments and benefits related to the Justice40 Initiative, includes a DACs Equity Layer for further exploration and visualization of DACs.

Access the Energy Justice Dashboard (BETA) Here.

Indicators and Data Sources for DOE Definition of Disadvantaged Communities




>30 min commute

Percent of total population with a drive time to employment greater than or equal to 30 minutes

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)

No Vehicle

Percent of total population with no vehicle(s) available

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)


Percent of population without health insurance

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)


Percent of the non-institutionalized population with any disability

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)


Percent of civilian labor force reported as unemployed

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)

Low Income

Percent of total population reported at or below area median income

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)

Incomplete Plumbing

Percent of occupied housing units without complete plumbing

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)

Single Parent

Proportion of family households with children under age 18 with only one parent

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)

Mobile Home

Percent of total population in mobile homes

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)

Non-grid-connected heating fuel

Percent of households that use a fuel other than grid-connected gas or electricity or solar energy as their main heat source

(U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)

Population 65 and older

Percent of total population over age 64

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)

Homes Built Before 1960

Percent of housing units built before 1960 (lead paint indicator)

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)


EJ Index for Diesel particulate matter level in air

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)


EJ Index for Air toxics cancer risk

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)

Traffic Proximity

EJ Index for Traffic proximity and volume

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)

Water Discharge

EJ Index for Indicator for major direct dischargers to water

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)

NPL Proximity

EJ Index for Proximity to National Priorities List (NPL) sites

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)

RMP Proximity

EJ Index for Proximity to Risk Management Plan (RMP) facilities

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)

TSDF Proximity

EJ Index for Proximity to Treatment Storage and Disposal (TSDF) facilities

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)


EJ Index for PM2.5 level in air

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)

Less HS Education

Percent of total population, age 25 and older, whose reported education is short of a high school diploma

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)

Linguistic Isolation

Percent of households living in linguistically isolated households. A household in which all members age 14 years and over speak a non-English language and also speak English less than "very well" (have difficulty with English) is linguistically isolated.

(U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)


Negative count of parks per census tract

(Esri, 2019)

Transportation Burden

Transportation Costs % Income for the Regional Typical Household

(Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2017)


Proportion of occupied housing units not occupied by property owners

(Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2017)

Housing Costs

Housing Costs % Income for the Regional Typical Household

(Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2017)

Job Access

Reciprocal of Job Access Score (0-10)

(Center for Neighborhood Technology, 2017)

Fossil energy employment

Percent of total civilian jobs in the fossil energy sector

(Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, 2021)

Coal employment

Percent of total civilian jobs in the coal sector

(Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization, 2021)

Food Desert

Share of neighborhood without access to affordable or good-quality fresh food (Percentage who live within 1/2 mile (urban) or 10 miles (rural) of supermarket

(“USDA ERS - Food Access Research Atlas,” 2021)

Internet Access

Percent of Households with No Internet Access

(U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 2021)


Representative of homeless population; calculated using total number of Sheltered and Unsheltered Population per sq. km

(U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2019)

Energy Burden

Annual average energy burden based on average annual housing energy costs divided by the average annual household income

(U.S. Department of Energy, 2018)

Outage Events

Number of power outage events that occurred for all census tracts in each county from 2017-2020

(U.S. Department of Energy Office of Cybersecurity Energy Security and Emergency Response, 2021)

Outage Duration

Average duration of power outage events (in minutes) that occurred for all census tracts in each county from 2017-2020

(U.S. Department of Energy Office of Cybersecurity Energy Security and Emergency Response, 2021)

Climate Hazards

Expected annual loss of life (fatalities and injuries) from 18 climate hazards

(U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2021)

Data Sources

  1. Center for Neighborhood Technology. (2017). H + T Index Methods.
  2. Esri. (2019). USA Parks. Retrieved from https://www.arcgis.com/home/item.html?id=578968f975774d3fab79fe56c8c90941
  3. Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities and Economic Revitalization. (2021). Initial Report to the President on Empowering Workers Through Revitalizing Energy Communities. (April).
  4. U.S. Census Bureau. (2019). American Community Survey (ACS) 5 Year Estimates 2015-2019.
  5. U.S. Census Bureau. (2021). TIGER/Line Shapefile, Nation, U.S., American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian (AIANNH) Areas. Retrieved from https://www2.census.gov/geo/tiger/TIGER2021/AIANNH/
  6. U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (2021). Indicators of Broadband Need. Retrieved from https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/resources/data-and-mapping
  7. U.S. Department of Energy. (2018). Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool. Retrieved January 6, 2022, from /eere/slsc/low-income-energy-affordability-data-lead-tool
  8. U.S. Department of Energy Office of Cybersecurity Energy Security and Emergency Response. (2021). Electric Disturbance Events (Form OE-417) Annual Summaries.
  9. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2021). National Risk Index. Retrieved January 6, 2022, from https://hazards.fema.gov/nri/
  10. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2019). Continuum of Care GIS Tools. Retrieved January 6, 2022, from https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/coc/gis-tools/
  11. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2021). EJSCREEN: Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool. Retrieved May 5, 2021, from https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen
  12. USDA ERS - Food Access Research Atlas. (2021). Retrieved January 6, 2022, from https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-access-research-atlas/

Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST)

Public feedback is being solicited for a brand new tool that was recently released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) aims to help Federal agencies identify DACs as part of the Justice40 Initiative.

Feedback is being accepted through May 25, 2022  and will help refine the tool to ensure that everyone is receiving the benefits intended from Federal programs. DOE intends to use this tool in its implementation of the Justice40 initiative after it is released out of beta and we encourage interested stakeholders to provide feedback to CEQ on the tool.

While CEJST is still in beta, DOE is using its Working Definition of DACs, consistent with OMB Interim Guidance and relevant statutory authorities. DOE will use this working DACs definition to ask applicants to Justice40-covered programs to identify how their projects benefit DACs.

Additional Resources