The Biden administration has earmarked $2 billion for environmental justice initiatives in underserved communities, prioritizing pollution cleanup and clean energy development.
In a landmark move, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the Biden administration, has announced a significant financial commitment of $2 billion. This funding is dedicated to assisting community groups, states, and tribes in addressing pollution and developing clean energy solutions, particularly in disadvantaged communities. This initiative represents the largest investment in environmental justice to date.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan highlighted the unprecedented nature of this grant program, emphasizing its potential to transform disadvantaged and burdened areas into healthier, resilient, and thriving communities. This move aligns with the Biden administration's broader commitment to environmental justice, especially in areas historically neglected and struggling to secure federal funding.
The funding comes from the sweeping climate law signed last year by President Joe Biden. It earmarked a total of $3 billion for underserved communities affected by pollution, with $1 billion already allocated. The law represents a substantial commitment to addressing the environmental challenges faced by minority and poor communities.
Regan, who is the first Black man to lead the EPA, has prioritized environmental justice throughout his tenure. His “Journey to Justice” tour brought attention to the environmental challenges in various regions across the United States, including the South, Appalachia, and Alaska. Additionally, President Biden reinforced this commitment by establishing a White House Office of Environmental Justice in April through an executive order.
The grant program, which is now open, will be managed by the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, a department established by Regan. According to AP News, the grants target a range of environmental concerns including climate resiliency, pollution monitoring, and the promotion of zero-emissions transportation. The program aims to address complex, overlapping issues in impoverished communities through substantial grants, moving away from the previous approach of tackling problems with smaller, individual grants.
The program anticipates awarding about 150 projects with grants ranging from $10 million to $20 million each. Additionally, smaller projects aimed at improving community-government communication will receive funding ranging from $1 million to $3 million each. Recognizing the historical challenges faced by these communities in accessing federal grants, the EPA is dedicating around $200 million for technical assistance.
Furthermore, the EPA has identified specific investment areas with unique needs. This includes significant funding for tribes in Alaska and the lower 48 states, territories, unincorporated communities, and areas near the Southern border, focusing on issues like land contamination and cross-border pollution.
This initiative faces political challenges, particularly from House Republicans who oppose the spending outlined in the Inflation Reduction Act. They propose to rescind $1.4 billion in environmental justice grants. Despite this opposition, EPA officials, including Regan and senior advisor John Podesta, are committed to defending the program against these political hurdles. The Biden administration strongly opposes the Republican spending proposal, underscoring the administration's dedication to environmental justice and sustainable development in underserved communities.
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