President Joe Biden offered an ambitious budget plan rallying agencies across government to focus more resources for low-income and other disadvantaged communities, from air pollution monitoring to new efforts to put more efficient appliances in low-income homes.
The fiscal 2023 request for environmental justice efforts is meant to make good on Biden’s campaign pledge to help communities that for decades have been burdened with disproportionate amounts of pollution from highways, waste sites, and power plants but largely left on the sidelines by the U.S. clean energy revolution.
The proposal calls for $1.45 billion for environmental justice efforts within the EPA, including $100 million in environmental equity programs for an expansion of community air quality monitoring and other efforts to help communities on the front lines of exposures. It also includes $215 million for EPA to clean up and redevelop waste sites known as brownfields, including training and technical support for communities.
Brownfields and Superfund cleanups, which have at times struggled for funding, are now poised for big increases provided in the bipartisan infrastructure package.
Biden requested nearly $1.2 billion for EPA Superfund activities in fiscal 2023—about the same as the current year—but that would be on top of the $3.5 billion provided for Superfund in last year’s infrastructure law.
The brownfields funding would “complement” funding already provided under the infrastructure package, which allocates $1.5 billion for such cleanups and redevelopment, according to budget request.
But Biden has also promised an “all of government” approach to make environmental equity a priority from the Energy Department to the Department of Justice Department.
The Justice Department would get $1.4 million under Biden’s budget request to stand up a new Office for Environmental Justice.
The fiscal 2023 request includes $12 million to coordinate implementation of Biden’s Justice40 Initiative at various agencies including the Office of Management and Budget. The Justice40 effort is to steer 40% of the benefits from clean energy, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities.
Biden’s environmental justice request will “help create good-paying jobs, clean up pollution, implement Justice40, advance racial equity, and secure environmental justice for communities that too often have been left behind,” according to an OMB fact sheet.
Training, Assistance Boosted
The fiscal 2023 budget plan also includes proposed authorization language for offering new environmental justice grants aimed at reducing the disproportionate health impacts of environmental pollution.
It proposes a new Environmental Justice Training Program—funded at $10 million—to increase the capacity of residents of under-served communities to identify and address “disproportionately adverse” health or environmental effects.
Other agencies and departments also are requesting either additional or new funding to benefit disadvantaged communities.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is requesting $1.1 billion in targeted climate resilience and improved energy efficiency in public housing, tribal housing, multifamily-assisted housing, and other housing assistance, with $400 million of that to go to assisted housing.
HUD’s fiscal 2023 request also backs authorizing the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program and Ginnie Mae’s continuing Environmental, Social, and Governance disclosure efforts, meant to direct liquidity to more environmentally sustainable housing and other products.
Energy Department programs to help blunt rising energy costs for low-income households, including $100 million for a new pilot program under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which has long provided assistance with home energy bills, weatherization, and minor energy-related home repairs.
The new LIHEAP Advantage pilot would work to provide more efficient electric appliances, energy systems, and help decarbonize low-income homes.