The Biden administration on Friday said it wants to make the largest environmental justice investment in U.S. history, proposing $1.4 billion on wide-ranging efforts to help low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that have long borne the brunt of pollution.
The proposal in President Joe Biden’s discretionary budget request for fiscal 2022 includes $936 million for a new initiative at the Environmental Protection Agency to accelerate environmental and economic justice to create “good-paying union jobs, clean up pollution, and secure environmental justice for communities that have been left behind,” according to a White House fact sheet.
The budget request also would increase new climate change investments by more than $14 billion for its “whole-of-government” approach to the issue, but with a focus on programs that “secure environmental justice for communities that have been left behind through the largest direct investment in environmental justice in history.”
Biden’s request, which requires Congressional approval, also would provide an additional $100 million in EPA state and tribal air quality grants that will be targeted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The budget proposal follows the release of Biden’s $2.5 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes a host of transit, clean water, and other infrastructure projects repeatedly framed as tackling environmental and racial equity, including big funding increases that would particularly benefit low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
Money Beyond EPA
Biden’s request includes increases for environmental justice efforts under other departments and agencies beyond EPA. It requests $400 million for the Department of Housing and Urban Development grant program that helps state and local governments, as well as nonprofits, reduce lead paint and other health hazards for low-income families.
The request also would increase research to boost understanding of the impacts of climate change on human health and the environment. It would provide an additional $30 million in fiscal 2022 to more than double EPA’s climate research budget, and provide other increases to cut so-called “super pollutants"—emissions of methane and hydrofluorocarbons that have a much bigger impact on planetary warming than carbon dioxide.
The spending request also would provide a $100 million increase to the Agriculture Department’s Rural Water and Wastewater Grants and Loans programs, for a total of $717 million in fiscal 2022. The USDA program focuses on boosting rural access to clean drinking water.
Other environmental justice funding in Biden’s budget would:
- Boost environmental justice work in the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, directing $5 million “to ensure equal treatment and protection for all people” under the nation’s environmental policies and laws. The request comes after the White House in January directed DOJ to work with other agencies to develop a “comprehensive” environmental justice enforcement strategy, and to consider creating a new office devoted to the cause; and
- Request $39 million for the Bureau of Prisons to repair aging facilities “in a manner that improves conditions of confinement” and enhances environmental sustainability.
—With assistance from Ellen Gilmer.