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March 10, 2022

New York State Proposes to Designate 35 Percent of State Census Tracts as Disadvantaged Communities Under the CLCPA

In 2019, New York State signed into law the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). In addition to its requirement that New York State reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and by no less than 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels, the CLCPA seeks to ensure that disadvantaged communities are not disproportionately burdened. Specifically, Section 7(3) of the CLCPA provides that “[i]n considering and issuing permits, licenses, and other administrative approvals and decisions . . . all state agencies, offices, authorities, and divisions shall not disproportionately burden disadvantaged communities” and directs New York State’s Climate Justice Working Group to establish criteria for defining disadvantaged communities. Disadvantaged communities are defined as “communities that bear burdens of negative public health effects, environmental pollution, impacts of climate change, and possess certain socioeconomic criteria, or comprise high-concentrations of low- and moderate-income households, as identified pursuant to section 75-0111 of this article.” 

On December 13, 2021, the Climate Justice Working Group, which is comprised of 13 representatives from organizations working in environmental justice communities across New York State as well as state agency and technical experts, voted to release their draft criteria for public comment. And, on March 9, 2022, the Climate Justice Working Group released its draft criteria for identifying disadvantaged communities as well as an interactive map and list of disadvantaged communities across the state and noticed a 120-day public comment period, which will include six public comment hearings.  

Under the proposed criteria, each census tract’s relative burden, risk, vulnerability, or sensitivity is evaluated based on a scoring approach utilizing 45 indicators including: environmental exposures, burdens, and climate change risks; sociodemographic factors such as age, race, and income; pollution characteristics; and health vulnerabilities. To be identified as a disadvantaged community, a census tract “must rank relatively high in terms of both ‘Environmental and Climate Change Burdens and Risks’ and ‘Population Characteristics and Health Vulnerabilities’ (or very high on one of these)[.]” Because of the considerable variability between New York City and other communities in the state in terms of the types and concentration of exposures, burdens, risks, and historical discrimination, the draft criteria considers each census tract’s relative score compared with other tracts in two broad regions: New York City (five counties; 43 percent of population) and Rest of State (57 counties; 57 percent of population).  

Ultimately, the draft guidance identifies 43 pages of census tracts across the state as disadvantaged communities. This equates to 1,721 of New York State’s 4,918 census tracts, which represents 35 percent of all census tracts. Nineteen of these census tracts are federally designated reservation territory or state-recognized nation-owned land.

The draft guidance, interactive map, and list of disadvantaged communities is available here. Comments can be submitted via the online public comment form; via email, to DACComments@dec.ny.gov; and via US mail, to: 

Attention: Draft DAC Comments
NYS DEC, Attn. Office of Environmental Justice
625 Broadway, 14th Floor, Albany NY 12233

Information about the public hearings will be released soon, and written comments will be accepted until July 7, 2022.

If you are interested in and need assistance with drafting and submitting comments on the Climate Justice Working Group’s draft guidance, please contact one of Barclay Damon’s environmental or regulatory attorneys.

If you have questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Yvonne Hennessey, Environmental Practice Area chair, at yhennessey@barclaydamon.com, or another member of the firm’s Environmental or Regulatory Practice Areas. 
 

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