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Geospatial Information System (GIS) Tools for Environmental Justice

Geospatial Information System (GIS) data sets or data layers are collections of related information that are linked to specific geographic locations. DEC has a number of GIS resources available for mapping and researching information related to environmental justice in New York State.

Potential Environmental Justice Areas

As established in DEC Commissioner Policy 29 on Environmental Justice and Permitting (CP-29), Potential EJ Areas are 2000 U.S. Census block groups of 250 to 500 households each that, in the 2000 Census, had populations that met or exceeded at least one of the following statistical thresholds:

  1. At least 51.1% of the population in an urban area reported themselves to be members of minority groups; or
  2. At least 33.8% of the population in a rural area reported themselves to be members of minority groups; or
  3. At least 23.59% of the population in an urban or rural area had household incomes below the federal poverty level.

Urban and rural designations for census block groups were established by the U.S. Census Bureau. See CP-29 for more information.

A GIS data layer of Potential Environmental Justice Areas (PEJAs) can be downloaded from DEC's Google Maps and Earth page in KMZ format to use in Google Earth. Scroll to the bottom of the list of data layers, then click on the Google Earth icon (blue globe) next to "Potential Environmental Justice Areas." When this data layer is opened in Google Earth, the PEJAs appear as transparent purple polygons superimposed on the map of New York State. Zooming in to a PEJA and clicking within its boundaries opens a pop-up window with information on the geographic location of the PEJA and 2000 U.S. Census statistics for population, percentage of the population in minority groups, and percentage of the population with incomes below the federal poverty level. This data layer requires Google Earth version 5.0 or later, which can be downloaded for free at

Other GIS Resources Available on the DEC Website

The DEC Mapping Gateway provides links to Internet tools for viewing DEC's GIS data and for downloading GIS data layers to use in different software packages.

The Environmental Facilities Navigator is is a useful tool for viewing DEC's GIS data on permitted facilities, remediation sites and related information on the Internet.

County maps of Potential Environmental Justice Areas are available in PDF format to view or download. These maps are being updated by the Office of Environmental Justice.

GIS Resources for Environmental Justice Available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The U.S. EPA has several websites devoted to GIS data about EPA-regulated facilities; click on the links in the right column to go to these pages. Please note that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the DEC Office of Environmental Justice are not responsible for the accuracy or timeliness of GIS data maintained by EPA. Please contact EPA with any questions or concerns about the information on these sites.

EPA EJView is a mapping tool that allows users to create maps and generate detailed reports based on the geographic areas and data sets they choose.

EPA Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) is a Web-based tool that provides public access to compliance and enforcement information for approximately 800,000 EPA-regulated facilities.

EPA Geospatial Data Download Service provides downloadable GIS files of facilities or sites that are subject to EPA regulations. Files are available in the following formats: extensible markup language (XML) file, keyhole markup language (KML) file, ESRI Shapefile and ESRI Feature Class.