The Environmental Protection Agency today named 11 “grant makers,” universities and nonprofits, that will be responsible for doling out $600 million in federal funding to locally led environmental projects. It’s a new strategy aimed at making it easier for small grassroots groups – especially those burdened with the most pollution – to access financing.
These groups will be able to apply for sub-grants from the EPA’s grant makers, which are tasked with overseeing funds for certain regions. The eleven grantees include some of the most prominent voices fighting a legacy of environmental racism and injustice in the US.
That includes the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), made up of member organizations from across the US – from the oldest Latino community organization UPROSE in Brooklyn, to the Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint, Michigan, to the Asian Pacific Environmental Network in California. For years, CJA has called on lawmakers and philanthropists, including the Bezos Earth Fund, to put more funding in the hands of community organizations that represent the neighborhoods hardest hit by pollution and climate change.
There has been a lot of research showing how communities of color and low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately exposed
Texas Southern University, a historically black university, is another notable grant provider. It is home to the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice, founded by none other than the man often called the father of environmental justice: Robert Bullard. In 1990 he published a book called Dump in Dixie about toxic waste sites in black communities in the US. The book traced the links between race, class and environmental health.
Since then, much research has emerged showing how communities of color and low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately exposed to environmental risks. For example, a 2019 study found that non-Hispanic white Americans have a “pollution advantage” in the US, living with about 17 percent less air pollution than they actually generate through their consumption habits. In contrast, Black and Hispanic Americans are, on average, exposed to about 60 percent more particulate matter pollution than is associated with their consumption.
“I would like to personally thank the EPA and the Biden Harris administration for selecting Texas Southern University,” Bullard said during an EPA press call. “We will ensure that these funds and these priorities receive the justice that is due to those communities that have a long history of being left out in some way when it comes to funding.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said on the call with reporters that grant makers are expected to be able to review and approve grant applications more quickly than a federal agency. “Not with all that bureaucracy, not in years, but in months. This means our investment will hit the streets faster,” Harris said. “We have long heard from leaders in the environmental justice movement that a major obstacle to funding their work is the federal grant process itself. It can take years for applications to be approved, and generally the process favors larger national organizations over smaller local organizations.”
Each grantmaker will be able to design its own application process and will have between $50 and $100 million to spend on sub-grants. The money could be awarded as soon as next summer and could be used for cleanup projects, emergency preparedness, clean energy workforce development, health programs and more. The subsidy program was created in the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest U.S. investment in climate action to date.
When The edge When asked how grant providers were chosen, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in the press call that each has “demonstrated a very strong governance structure that creates accountability” and that the agency selected the eleven “knowing that they would be able to allocate these funds operationalized in some way. that the communities that need these resources most would absolutely get them.” The grantees will still work with the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights to award the subgrants.
CJA, for example, has not shied away from calling out the Biden administration for funding what it calls “false solutions.” That includes billions of dollars funneled into new technologies to filter planet-warming carbon dioxide from the air or capture the gas from smokestack emissions. CJA has favored investments in renewable energy that simultaneously combat climate change while eliminating other types of pollution that come from oil, gas and coal facilities. As a new subsidy provider, it might be able to move the needle a little more in that direction.