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EPA Urges Groups to Apply for Record Environmental Equity Grants

Jan. 10, 2023, 6:24 PM

The EPA invited environmental justice advocates, communities, and other groups on Tuesday to apply for $100 million in environmental justice grants, a record amount provided under last year’s climate law.

Congress provided $3 billion in environmental and climate justice block grants under the climate measure (Public Law 117-169) signed into law in August, along with smaller amounts for environmental grants and technical assistance for schools serving low-income communities.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said the agency is requesting applications for the first $100 million in grant awards under two agency programs: its Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program and Environmental Justice Government-to-Government Program.

The agency will provide $30 million directly to community-based organizations under the EJCPS grants, with $5 million set aside for small community-based nonprofits with five or fewer full-time employees.

“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,” Regan said. The grant awards build on other agency efforts, including its launch in the fall of a new national environmental justice and civil rights office, he said.

The $100 million total announced Tuesday is already the largest amount of environmental justice grant funding ever offered by the agency, the administrator said.

Billions More Coming

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said the grants amounted to a downpayment for even more funding from the climate law.

Congress has also provided significant environmental justice funding under EPA’s fiscal 2022 spending measure and the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure package (Public Law 117-58). The climate law provided a total of $60 billion to address environmental equity concerns, including a first-of-its kind $27 billion federal green bank known as the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, with $15 billion set aside for climate-friendly projects benefiting low-income and disadvantaged communities.

“100 million is the beginning,” said Girjalva, who along with Senate Democrats such as Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) pushed to get the $3 billion in environmental justice funding included in the climate law.

Catherine Flowers, founding director of the Alabama-based Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, said funding for community-based environmental justice efforts was essentially unavailable when she began advocating for clean water and adequate sewage treatment more than 20 years ago.

“I firmly believe many solutions to environmental crises in this country lie at the community level,” Flowers said. “People in EJ communities often know what’s best. They don’t always have the resources or the voice,” she said.

The agency is holding a series of “pre-application” webinars Jan. 24 and Jan. 26 to help guide applicants on applying for the government-to-government and problem-solving environmental justice grant programs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dean Scott in Washington at dscott@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bloombergindustry.com