Environmental Justice


Environmental justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 3 expanded the scope and responsibilities of the GC3 to include recommending strategies to achieve both mitigation of carbon emissions and climate change adaptation and resilience, and to prioritize equity in doing so. Specifically, the group was charged with “prioritizing, integrating and advancing equitable distribution of the costs and benefits of climate change mitigation planning policies, specifically addressing disproportionate impacts of such strategies on environmental justice communities,” and providing an Adaptation and Resilience Plan with “recommended strategies to prioritize climate change adaptation efforts to protect vulnerable communities that may be disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change.” This charge led to the creation of the Equity and Environmental Justice Working Group (EEJ) of the GC3, and a commitment on the part of all members of the GC3 (including CIRCA) to look at recommendations through an equity lens.


Emergency Sheltering & Cooling Center Practices White Paper

Connecticut Environmental Justice Mapping Tool Website


CIRCA Press Release


Climate and Equity Grant Recipients Announced

GROTON, CT — The Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) is pleased to announce the results of the first round of grants under the Climate & Equity Grant Program. CIRCA and CT DEEP partnered on this grant program in response to recommendation number one from the Governor’s Council on Climate Change Recommendations for Near-Term Action in January 2021, to provide funding to support community-based organizations aligned with environmental justice, climate change adaptation, and mitigation work across the state.

Six community-based organizations have been selected to receive grants for projects that will increase the capacity of vulnerable communities in New Haven, Hartford, Norwalk, and Waterbury to mitigate, plan for, and respond to climate change. These grantees were selected from a large pool of competitive applicants based on criteria including the degree to which the project is community-driven, the relevance of the project to Connecticut’s climate goals, the clarity and feasibility of the project work plan, and the potential of the project to directly lead to a lasting increase in the capacity of vulnerable communities to respond to climate change and its impacts. The six grantees and projects are listed below:

  • Center for Latino Progress (Hartford): Funding for the BiCi Co. Plan for Active Travel and Health (BiCi PATH) project to provide free, refurbished shop-quality bicycles to increase carbon-neutral mobility in the Frog Hollow, Parkville, and South Hartford communities, accompanied by an air monitoring program for community education. ($50,000)
  • Clean Water Fund (Waterbury): Funding for a local outreach coordinator to increase access to energy efficiency programs for Waterbury residents, in collaboration with the Neighborhood Housing Services of Waterbury and I Heart My Home. ($50,000)
  • Colt Park Foundation (Hartford): Funding to plant drought-resistant trees in Colt Park to mitigate the urban heat island effect experienced by the Barry Square Neighborhood and the CSS/CON Neighborhood Revitalization Zone. ($6,000)
  • New Haven Leon Sister City Project (New Haven): Funding for youth participation in climate action planning for New Haven public schools, accompanied by a summer public art project. ($8,960)
  • Nonprofit Accountability Group (Hartford): Funding for an environmental justice community organizer to facilitate monthly engagement events, listening sessions, and letter-writing, ultimately leading to the creation of a community climate plan for the City of Hartford with particular attention to addressing racial disparities currently present in environmental justice movements. ($50,000)
  • Pollinator Pathway (Norwalk): Funding for shrub and tree planting, in collaboration with the Stepping Stones Museum for Children’s youth enrichment program, to increase the urban tree canopy in the South Norwalk/Norwalk Center area. ($10,000)


CIRCA Executive Director Professor Jim O’Donnell said, “These grants are an important step to enhance the capacity for community-based groups with an existing client constituency to expand their work to include education and advocacy about community resilience.”

“As a health professional and long-time environmental justice activist, I am thrilled that Governor Lamont, the Legislature and DEEP have seen fit to provide this first round of desperately needed funding for environmental justice efforts in Connecticut,” said Advisory Committee member, Dr. Mark Mitchell. “We had a good response. I hope that we are able to provide many more rounds of funding to begin to meet the needs. I would also like to congratulate CIRCA on their management and support of the grant process. Many of the applicants stated that the application process was much simpler than most.”

Funding for this grant program comes from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

To learn more about the Climate & Equity Grant Program, visit https://circa.uconn.edu/environmental-justice/climate-and-equity-grant-program/

To learn more about CIRCA, visit http://circa.uconn.edu

For more information contact: Mary Buchanan, mary.buchanan@uconn.edu


CIRCA Press Release


Applications Open for Climate and Equity Grant Program from CIRCA and DEEP  

GROTON, CT— In accordance with the recommendations from the Governor’s Council of Climate Change, the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA), with funding from CT DEEP, is seeking grant proposals for a new Climate & Equity Grant Program. This grant program will provide funding to increase the capacity of vulnerable communities to mitigate, plan for, and respond to climate change impacts, and is open to community-based organizations, tribal governments, and tribal organizations. Applicants may apply for smaller projects up to $10,000, or larger projects up to $50,000, with no match required. Applications will close November 18, 2022.

CT DEEP and CIRCA are partnering on this grant program in response to recommendation number one from the Governor’s Council on Climate Change Recommendations Report in January 2021, to provide funding to support community-based organizations aligned with environmental justice, climate change adaptation, and mitigation work across the state. CIRCA was tasked by DEEP to create a pilot program, building on CIRCA’s previous experience developing and running grant programs with a focus on climate change in Connecticut. In the Summer of 2022 CIRCA created an advisory committee to provide expertise in equity and environmental justice to assist with creating the program. Members of the advisory committee are listed below.

“The Governor’s Council on Climate Change prioritized equity and environmental justice in its recommendations, so when we saw the opportunity to do more, DEEP decided to provide financial support targeted to community organizations,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “I am grateful for this partnership with CIRCA that enables these groups to participate fully in climate planning, and provides funding and training for grantees through workshops and one-on-one consultation. I look forward to working with all of the grantees as we take climate action together.”

CIRCA Executive Director Professor Jim O’Donnell said, “I think it is obvious that if we want our society to be resilient to the impacts of climate change then we must understand the perspectives of all citizens, and especially the most vulnerable. Grants to community groups to support their active participation in debates over options and priorities is essential so that the other work they do can continue as well. This grant program will make our planning more inclusive and effective.”

“It is time to rebuild environmental justice organizations in Connecticut so that they can lead the way toward healthier and more just communities,” said Dr. Mark Mitchell, Advisory Committee Member and Co-chair of the Connecticut Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council. “EJ and grassroots community-based organizations have been starved for funding for more than a decade now. It is time to start reinvesting in them so that we can reap the benefits.”

Advisory committee:

  • Mark Mitchell, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Climate Change, Energy & Environmental Health Equity at George Mason University and Co-chair of the Connecticut Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council (CEEJAC);
  • Hermia Delaire, Sandy Recovery Program Manager for the CT Department of Housing;
  • David Embrick, Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at UConn and Director of the CT Center for Research on Resilient Cities, Racism, and Equity;
  • Edith Pestana, Administrator for CT DEEP’s Environmental Justice Program,
  • Bessie Wright, EPA Region 1 Program Coordinator for Long Island Sound Study;
  • Jennifer O’Brien, Program Director for Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, and
  • Ellen Carter, Vice President of Program, for the Community Health Foundation.

At this stage all Advisory Committee members are individuals who will not be applicants for the grant program to ensure there would be no unfair advantage among potential applicants. However, once selected, grantees under this new program will be able to provide feedback to further refine the pilot program and improve it for future grantees.

A webinar to learn more about this grant program will be held on October 25, 2022 at noon (a recording will be made available following the event). Register for the webinar here. To learn more about CIRCA, visit http://circa.uconn.edu

For more information contact: Mary Buchanan, mary.buchanan@uconn.edu



DEEP Press Release

DEEP and UConn CIRCA Partner to Develop Mapping Tool for Environmental Justice Communities

Project Will Provide Valuable Data to Better Inform Policies Seeking to Address Environmental Inequities

(HARTFORD)—The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)and the University of Connecticut’s Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA) are partnering on the development of an “Environmental Justice (EJ) Mapping Tool” to identify vulnerable populations that may be disproportionately impacted by programs, policies, or projects and to inform initiatives for creating healthy communities.

A commitment to equity and environmental justice starts by recognizing that disparities in health outcomes, inequities in living conditions, and lack of political power have placed many communities of color, low-income communities, people with disabilities, and other historically disadvantaged people at greater risk and limit the capacity of their communities to adapt to climate change. This EJ Mapping Tool is an important step toward addressing those disparities, implementing a recommendation made by the Equity and Environmental Justice Working Group of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) in its January 2021 Report to create a visual representation of the distribution of environmental and climate health vulnerabilities across Connecticut, with input from known environmental justice communities, that can later be utilized in existing state programs, including in the distribution of grant and bond funding.

To develop this tool, DEEP has partnered with CIRCA. Over the next two years, researchers at CIRCA, building off of work presented in the “Scoping and Recommendations for the Development of a Connecticut Environmental Justice Mapping Tool” report from Yale student research, will seek to build a community-state partnership through a combination of statistical spatial analysis and engagement with vulnerable communities across the state.

“I’m thrilled to be launching this critical project with our partners at CIRCA,” DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said. “Equity and environmental justice have been a major focus of the Lamont Administration, the GC3, and our work at DEEP, and this tool will provide indispensable information, informed by the very communities most disproportionately impacted by pollution and the changing climate, to better inform decisions and policy-making to address those disparities.”

To build the EJ Mapping tool, the work will be divided into three parts. Preparation of the Initial Environmental Justice Map Viewer will include collecting Geographic Information Systems (GIS) source layer data across major indicators, reviewing data for quality and comprehensiveness, and establishing protocols for updating and maintenance of the data. The Community Feedback Process will include launching the EJ Mapping Tool Advisory Committee that will include organizations that represent different interests that contribute to environmental justice including health, transportation, racial justice, education, and more. The committee member organizations will receive funding to support their participation. This part of the process will also include several focus groups, held throughout the state and tribal nations (in environmental justice communities, where possible) to ascertain community environmental and health concerns and review and assess data layers in the mapping tool. This information will be collected and shared with State GIS Partners and the EJ Mapping Tool Advisory Committee for initial identification of potential layers that represent community priorities raised. Finally, the Creation of the EJ Map Viewer 2.0 and Next Steps phase of the project will entail final meetings and discussions, revisions to the EJ Map Viewer, and the drafting and release of the final project report and launch of the EJ Map Viewer 2.0.

CIRCA’s Dr. Joanna Wozniak-Brown, along with Dr. Yaprak Onat, will be the project managers.

“As a research institute, CIRCA regularly generates data based on scientific study,” said Wozniak-Brown. “As we experience increasing impacts from climate change, amplified in some communities by historic and ongoing inequities, understanding the unfair burden on communities across the state in a measurable way will be one critical piece to inform decision-making and policy change. This data will tell a story. That’s why we will be asking community organizations and Connecticut stakeholders to shape the process so the data can represent their lived experience. We are humbled and honored to serve the state in this capacity.”

Lee Cruz, Director of Community Outreach for the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and Co-Chair of the GC3 Equity and EJ Working Group, applauded the news of DEEP and CIRCA’s partnership on the project.

“We are delighted to hear that DEEP contracted the University of Connecticut to develop an Environmental Justice Mapping Tool, as recommended by Equity and Environmental Justice Working Group of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change,” said Cruz. “For too long, communities of color in Connecticut have been at the center of some of the worst environmental contamination in our state. Few policy decisionmakers are aware of the consequences of these contaminants on our children and ourselves. An environmental mapping tool can help recall and present the impact of these contaminants. And as we plan for the climate change adaptation and mitigation that is now inevitable, this tool will help us all to clearly visualize the areas of greatest need and plan with a greater sense of justice than in the past.”

Learn more about environmental justice, DEEP’s Environmental Justice Program, and Environmental Justice Communities in Connecticut.