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Maps & 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. These can be used to create maps that present specialized information. 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 (PEJAs)

Potential EJ Areas are U.S. Census block groups of 250 to 500 households each that, in the Census, had populations that met or exceeded at least one of the following statistical thresholds:

1. At least 52.42% of the population in an urban area reported themselves to be members of minority groups; or

2. At least 26.28% of the population in a rural area reported themselves to be members of minority groups; or

3. At least 22.82% of the population in an urban or rural area had household incomes below the federal poverty level.

The federal poverty level and urban/rural designations for census block groups are established by the U.S. Census Bureau. The thresholds are determined by a statistical analysis of the 2014-2018 American Community Survey (ACS) data, which is the most recent data available as of the time of the analysis in 2020. See DEC Commissioner Policy 29 on Environmental Justice and Permitting (CP-29) for more information.

The following link directs to an ArcGIS Webmap of the Potential EJ Areas, (leaves DEC's website) as designated in the 2020 updates.

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 2014-2018 ACS statistics for population, percentage of the population in minority groups, and percentage of the population with incomes below the federal poverty level.

The following link directs to the New York State Data Clearinghouse entry for the updated Potential EJ Areas (leaves DEC's website). The data and its associated metadata can be downloaded from the Data Clearinghouse.

Other GIS Resources & Data Available from DEC

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.

DEC's Geodata Inventory can be accessed from the New York State GIS Clearinghouse (leaves DEC's website).

The Environmental Resource Mapper is an interactive mapping application that can be used to identify some of New York State's natural resources and environmental features that are state or federally protected, or of conservation concern.

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. 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 links leave DEC's website)

EPA EJScreenis 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 geodatabase, and comma separated values (CSV).

EPA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) provides information regarding toxic chemical releases and pollution prevention activities reported by regulated facilities.


The Potential Environmental Justice Area maps have been compiled from supplied data or information that has not been verified by NYSDEC and should be used as a general representation only. NYSDEC does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of the information shown and shall not be liable for any loss or injury resulting from reliance. It is not to be used for commercial purposes without verification by an independent professional qualified to verify such data or information. To use the most recent Census data, please to the Census Fact Finder (leaves DEC's website), or EPA's EJ Screen (leaves DEC website).

To reference the maps with the most recent Census data, please refer the maps are based on data from the 2000 U.S. Census. Occasionally the mapped potential environmental justice areas (PEJAs) will conflict with what is known or what is expected for a geographic area. This is commonly due to minor discrepancies in the 2000 U.S. Census demographic data, the GIS application used to create the maps, or some other discrepancy. For instance, some cemeteries, parks, or other open space areas with little or no residential population may appear as PEJAs; and, although rare, sometimes a census block group with a low number of racial or ethnic minorities or a high average income level will appear as a PEJA.

To address these apparent discrepancies, ground truthing is performed where the map appears to conflict with what is known or what is expected for a geographic area. Ground truthing refers to the collection of reference material used to verify the demographic data. Ground truthing may be accomplished through a variety of methods, including: a review of current census data, a site visit, the application of personal or institutional knowledge, or the collection of field or other data. Where uncertainty exists, please contact the Office of Environmental Justice.

For further information, please call the DEC Environmental Justice Hotline toll-free at 1-866-229-0497 or e-mail the Office of Environmental Justice.