Masters Thesis

Measured Justice: An Analysis of Environmental Screening Tools in California

California’s state government has positioned itself as a leader in the passing of legislation that uses technology and bureaucracy to address the concerns of the environmental justice (EJ) movement. CalEnviroscreen (CES) is a novel, statewide-geographic information system (GIS) that was created as a result of such legislation. CES was designed and implemented by the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) and aims to measure, rank, and map the environmental burden of communities using data from Cal-EPA’s member agencies and boards. This thesis argues that CES is an example of how of the EJ movement and the very definition of EJ were affected by California’s EJ public policy and laws. the popular definition of EJ shifted from an emphasis on equability to an emphasis on equality due, in part, to government’s genuine efforts to address an important social movement. This thesis presents an analysis of CES as a statistical system with focus on the system’s social and cognitive structure. This is done by examining the legislative and bureaucratic process in which CES was designed and implemented. Following this is a GIS-based analysis of CES that attempts to illuminate and address the major criticisms, biases and shortcomings of CES. It is my hope that in doing so I can strive towards a more holistic, regionalized vision of EJ GIS analysis that can build off of the states’ existing investment in the environmental information processing.

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