EPA Announces $50 Million for Environmental Justice Initiatives

EPA $50 Million Environmental Justice Initiatives

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced $50 million in environmental justice funding, sending money to low-income and communities of color to take on the intersecting impacts of the climate crisis, long-term pollution, and COVID-19. The funding comes from the most recent COVID relief package and is the first half of $100 million allocated for the agency's environmental justice work. $16.6 million of the current funding will go to grants for cities, states, tribes, and territories, and 14 projects have already been announced, including:

Why This Matters

Air pollution disproportionately harms communities of color, is directly connected to worse COVID outcomes, and will get worse with climate change. The funding is a concrete investment in environmental justice, actually putting money behind President Biden's policy priorities. It's a step toward taking on massive environmental inequalities that have compounded over decades of unjust policy. And by funding projects at the city level, the money will advance solutions that are in tune with the local situation.

"We are really excited to get these resources into the hands of communities,"  EPA Administrator Michael Regan told BuzzFeed News ahead of last Friday’s announcement.

Now This: How Air Pollution Exposes America's Racial Disparities, July 25, 2020.

Additional Funding Allocation

The biggest pot of the money --  $16.6 million -- will go to local grants, and the rest of the $50 million will fund other environmental justice projects:

  • $7 million for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act to swap out diesel school buses for electric ones in underserved communities.
  • $5.1 million to expand civil and criminal enforcement of air and water pollution.
  • $5 million to clean up brownfield sites for redevelopment.
  • $1.6 million for the Tribal General Assistance Program, which supports tribes in managing their own environmental protection and clean up programs.

The Importance Of Air Quality

Recent studies have highlighted the disparities between Americans of color and their white counterparts in exposure to air pollution and the resulting health impacts. The fine particulate air pollution, called PM2.5 because of its size, comes from car exhaust, industrial activity, and coal-fired power plants. Racist policies over the years have placed highways, factories, and power plants in communities of color, forcing the people living there to breathe worse air. It causes 85,000-200,000 premature US deaths each year. (Globally fossil fuel air pollution kills one in five people yearly.)

"The recipe we've had for improving air quality for the last 50 years, which has worked well for the country overall, is not a good recipe for solving environmental inequality," Joshua Apte, one of the study authors told the Washington Post earlier this year.

WHO: Breathe Life - How air pollution impacts your body, March 13, 2018.

WW0: Global Climate Justice - Rt Hon David Lammy MP in Conversation with Catherine Coleman Flowers, April 7, 2021.