On Tuesday, Jan. 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of approximately $100 million for projects that advance environmental justice in communities that are overburdened by pollution and historic underinvestment. The funding is made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and builds on additional funding from the American Rescue Plan.
The agency has published two requests for applications for this funding through the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program and the Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G) Program.
According to EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, the agency is at the heart of delivering on President Biden’s pledge to prioritize environmental justice and equity for all. “This is a key step that will help build strong partnerships with communities across the country and move us closer to realizing a more just and equitable future for all,” he says.
These grant programs further the goals of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and executive order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which directed that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to overburdened communities that face disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental impacts.
“This call for applications ensures money can flow directly to communities that need it most by splitting the funding between community-based non-profits as well as the states, localities, tribes, and territories that usually receive federal grants,” says U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “Helping these non-profits who know their communities better than anyone was central to my mission when fighting for environmental justice priorities in the Inflation Reduction Act and this is only the beginning. I will continue to fight for environmental justice and working with communities across New York to get this money where it is needed most.”
Regan notes that because these communities know their own environmental justice challenges better than anyone, the awards will help local organizations to partner with stakeholders to develop and implement the most effective and resilient solutions.
“EPA is committed to supporting these applications,” he adds. “EPA will host webinars to respond to questions and facilitate application submissions. The agency will also have dedicated staff members to provide support as needed.”
The EJCPS Program will provide an estimated $30 million in funding directly to community-based nonprofit organizations, with $5 million reserved for small community-based nonprofit organizations with five or fewer full-time employees. In total, the agency anticipates funding approximately 50 awards of $500,000 and 30 awards of $150,000.
EPA’s EJCPS Cooperative Agreement Program provides financial assistance to eligible organizations working on or planning to work on projects to address local environmental and/or public health issues in their communities. The program helps recipients build collaborative partnerships with local businesses and industries, local government, medical service providers, academia, and others to develop solutions that will significantly address environmental and/or public health issues at the local level.
The EJG2G Program will provide an estimated $70 million in funding. Of this, $20 million will be for state governments to be used in conjunction with community-based organization (CBO) partners, $20 million will be for local government with CBO partners, $20 million will be for Federally Recognized Tribal Nations with CBO partners, and $10 million will be for U.S. territories and remote tribes with limited access to CBO partners. In total EPA anticipates funding approximately 70 projects of up to $1 million each for a three-year project.
The EJG2G Program works to support and/or create model state activities that lead to measurable environmental or public health results in communities overburdened by environmental harms. These models should use state agencies’ existing resources to develop tools and processes that integrate environmental justice considerations into state governments and government programs.
“I’m grateful for the Biden administration’s commitment to ensuring those disproportionately impacted by pollution and climate change are given the opportunity to have a healthier, more equitable future,” says Congressman Raúl Grijalva, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources. “The grants announced today and other investments from the Inflation Reduction Act will advance environmental justice in underrepresented communities and help ensure every person has access to pure air, clean water, and an environment that allows them to thrive. In Congress, we will continue our legislative efforts to provide greater public health protections for vulnerable communities, strengthen the Civil Rights Act, and improve federal agencies’ environmental justice work.”
Under both EJCPS and EJG2G programs, EPA will give special consideration to the following focus areas:
- Projects addressing climate change, disaster resiliency and/or emergency preparedness
- Projects located in and/or benefitting rural areas
- Projects conducting Health Impact Assessments (HIA)
“Every American deserves access to clean air and water—no matter their zip code, the color of their skin, or the size of their paycheck,” says Senator Tammy Duckworth, co-founder of the Senate’s Environmental Justice Caucus. “Access to clean air and clean water isn’t ‘only’ an environmental issue—it’s a matter of health and safety, systemic racism, and persistent discrimination against those in low-income communities. I’m hopeful that today, we’re making important advances toward ending this crisis.”
Applicants must submit proposal packages on or before April 10, 2023, to be considered for the available funding. Applicants should plan for projects to begin on Oct. 1, 2023. EPA plans to announce an additional environmental justice grant competition, making extensive use of IRA resources, early this year to establish a network of grant-makers across the U.S. to facilitate awarding assessment, planning and project development grants to communities and their partners.
“The recycled materials industry looks forward to working with the Biden administration to ensure that all communities have clean air and water,” says Billy Johnson, ISRI’s chief lobbyist. “Recycling is not only essential to sustainability but also helps ensure our environment is cleaner and safer for everyone regardless of where they live and work.”
Photo Caption: EPA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. Photo Courtesy of Tim Evanson on flickr.