Research Projects

Use of Equity and Environmental Justice Data to Support Airport Decision-making In Reserve

Assigned to Julia Nagy
Last Edited by Julia Nagy

Research would focus on determining how airports could better leverage emerging equity and environmental justice datasets to inform decision-making processes and ensure better project outcomes for communities and stakeholders. The guidebook would provide a primer on the topic, present a synthesis of current practices in analysis, mapping, and visualization of this data, and how it could be used to inform airport-decision making processes from both an environmental and social perspective, and improve stakeholder involvement. The project would include case studies and summary of best practices.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Historically, Environmental Justice focused on ensuring that disadvantaged populations do not bear a disproportionate burden of negative environmental impacts of projects, and are meaningfully included and engaged in planning and public outreach. These goals remain critically important but industry's interest has expanded beyond typical Environmental Justice considerations to include a broader understanding of how infrastructure can impact the economic and social well-being of all communities in a more balanced, just way.

Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) considerations are items of significant concern in the aviation industry, particularly in the context of infrastructure improvements and economic recovery from COVID. Not only do we want to build back, we want to build back better, and more equitably. Environmental Justice is a priority of the Biden Administration, solidified through his January 27, 2021 Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. This Executive Order creates a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council and requires creation of a "geospatial Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool" within 6 months that will enable the Administration to publish annual "interactive maps highlighting disadvantaged communities." (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/27/executive-order-on-tackling-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad/) Although this tool has not been released to the public, it is likely that it will be released this year.

The Biden Administration's proposed infrastructure plan, The American Jobs Plan, is intended to not only rebuild and upgrade American infrastructure, including airports, but also to lay the groundwork and invest in the technology necessary to create a more sustainable, just economy that addresses historic racial injustices and enhances the quality of life of disadvantaged communities, including climate considerations. (https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/)

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The Guidebook would educate airport leaders and decision makers on the existing and emerging equity and environmental justice guidance, datasets and tools and prepare for potential new regulations on these topics. The Guidebook will focus on providing information for airports to leverage existing and emerging datasets and screening tools to influence airport decision-making, allocate investments and resources equitably, improve community engagement, balance benefits and impacts of projects and operations, and ensure disadvantaged communities are not left behind when determining program priorities.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

Recommended tasks include (but not limited to):

Task 1: Project Administration, Amplified Work Plan and Kick-off

Task 2: Literature Review

A literature review is needed to obtain information on the existing tools at the federal, state, and local levels. It would also provide a regulatory background to provide summaries of existing requirement, guidance, and common definitions for equity, environmental justice, and other terms used throughout the guidebook. Include discussion of the need for equity and environmental justice from both a regulatory and societal perspective, i.e. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and historical perspectives of inequity in infrastructure development.

Task 3: Analysis Tools

Overview of existing tools for analysis and visualization of data, including application to airports and examples.

Task 4: Best Practices and Application

Identify best practices, and present case studies in which Port Authorities/ airports / transit agencies/ metropolitan planning organizations have used data to inform decision-making, such as the Port of Seattle's use of equity index mapping to allocate environmental grant funds in local communities (https://www.portseattle.org/blog/data-drives-equity-economic-development). Research should consider state and federal perspectives, and the role that various regulators play in airport planning and funding decisions. Include case studies of NEPA Environmental Justice analysis at airports and best practices.

Task 5: Interim report and interim meeting

Task 6: Toolkit for using data and possible tutorials for commonly used datasets.

This may include a checklist for airport leaders that identifies the types of airport decision-points where equity and environmental justice considerations may arise and how to leverage this data to inform decision-making.

Task 7: Final Deliverables and Guidebook

Refine resources developed in other tasks based on panel and industry input.

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

$350,000-400,000 for a 16-to-18-month project based on the tasks suggested above and level of effort.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

Related research includes but is not limited to:

1. Environmental Protection Agency. Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ). Environmental Justice Primer for Ports: The Good Neighbor Guide to Building Partnerships and Social Equity with Communities. March 2020. Accessed at https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyPDF.cgi?Dockey=P100YMNT.pdf

2. Environmental Protection Agency. Ports Primer: A2. Citizen Mapping, Data Tools and Resources. March 2020. Accessed at https://www.epa.gov/community-port-collaboration/ports-primer-a2-citizen-mapping-data-tools-and-resources

3. Aimee Barnes, Angela Luh, and Matthew Gobin. Mapping Environmental Justice in the Biden-Harris Administration. February 4, 2021. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2021/02/04/495397/mapping-environmental-justice-biden-harris-administration/

4. Amber Woodburn McNair. Investigation of environmental justice analysis in airport planning practice from 2000 to 2010. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trd.2020.102286

Multiple federal, state, and local analysis tools exist, including but not limited to:

1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EJSCREEN: Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool: https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen/environmental-justice-indexes-ejscreen

2. California's environmental justice screening tool, CalEnviroScreen (CES): https://oehha.ca.gov/calenviroscreen/report/draft-calenviroscreen-40

3. New Jersey Environmental Justice Mapping Tool: https://njdep.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=34e507ead25b4aa5a5051dbb85e55055

4. New York City mapping/GIS tool for Environmental Justice Areas: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cpp/our-programs/environmental-justice-study.page

Annotations
Idea No. 659