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Geography and Sustainability professor Marcos Luna appointed to National Academies of Sciences committee

Advising federal government on environmental health and geospatial data to identify disadvantaged communities

Salem State University’s professor Marcos Luna has been appointed to a Committee on Utilizing Advanced Environmental Health and Geospatial Data and Technologies to Inform Community Investment for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The 11-member Committee, which includes experts in geospatial data science and environmental health from around the country, will provide expert advice on geospatial data and approaches to guide federal agencies in identifying disadvantaged communities. Professor Luna will be focusing on issues around measures of uncertainty in Census demographic data and assisting with the facilitation of community input to the Committee.

In January 2021, President Biden’s Executive Order 14008 – Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad announced Justice40, which mandates that at least 40% of the benefits of certain federal programs must flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) subsequently developed a Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool that federal agencies must use in order to identify communities eligible for benefits from federal investments in critical sectors. Although the CEQ has released an early version of this interactive mapping tool, it is actively seeking both community input and expert advice on how the tool should function, what data it can or should use, and equally important, how “disadvantaged communities” should be defined and identified.

In response to the CEQ’s request for expert guidance, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine created a Committee on Utilizing Advanced Environmental Health and Geospatial Data and Technologies to Inform Community Investment to analyze “how environmental health and geospatial data and environmental screening tools can inform the Council on Environmental Quality’s vision by conducting a data assessment to assist CEQ in considering the disparities it has prioritized.” The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is a private, non-profit research organization, originally chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1863, whose mission is to provide “independent, objective advice to inform policy with evidence, spark progress and innovation, and confront challenging issues for the benefit of society.” Professor Luna was nominated by National Academies staff and subsequently appointed by leadership in February 2023.

Luna is a professor in the Geography and Sustainability Department, and Coordinator of the graduate Geo-Information Science program at Salem State. His area of expertise is on applications of geospatial technology to environmental justice and social equity. He is actively involved in research, policy, and community advocacy around issues of environmental justice in the Commonwealth. Professor Luna played a key role in the development of Massachusetts’ first statewide environmental justice policy, passed as part of the Climate Roadmap legislation in 2021, and he currently serves as a governor-appointed member of the Commonwealth’s Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

Sammantha Magsino
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