DOH announces tool to help improve environmental health equity

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH), in collaboration with the University of Washington, announced Monday new interactive mapping tools to help utilities improve environmental health equity as they transition to cleaner energy generation. 

These tools will identify communities in Washington that are disproportionately impacted by fossil fuel pollution and are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This will help DOH and partners address these inequities. 

Screenshot of the DOH Washington Tracking Network: A Source for Environmental Public Health Data

The new tools will provide utilities with localized data on the environmental, health and climate risks that communities face. This information will provide utilities with the support they need to make decisions that will advance environmental justice in the state’s shift away from fossil fuels.

Dr. Jeremy Hess, director of the University of Washington Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE) said:

Having accurate, community-level data about environmental risks is critical to inform decisions by policymakers on funding priorities, environmental policy and strategies to help communities disproportionately impacted by pollution. This work is part of CHanGE’s mission to promote the health benefits of climate action and support key decisions in climate change mitigation and adaptation. We are committed to working with our partners to build on these tools going forward.”

Analysis done by DOH shows that 54 out of 64 electrical utilities in Washington contain communities that are highly impacted by fossil fuel pollution and other risk factors. Communities are highly impacted if they rank a nine or ten on the Environmental Health Disparities map. This map shows exposure to pollution, fossil fuels and other environmental hazards, as well as social vulnerability factors such as income and race. 

Jennifer Sabel, environmental public health senior epidemiologist for the DOH, said:

This is one step toward helping our communities whose health is most impacted by environmental concerns, by focusing resources to help them with the transition to clean energy in Washington.”

The Clean Energy Transformation Act, passed by the Legislature in 2019, focuses on making energy cleaner and healthier. One part of that process required the DOH to identify communities that are burdened by environmental risk factors and climate change impacts. This act commits Washington to an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

This story was cross-posted on our sister site State of Reform.

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