US offers $550m to tackle pollution in poor neighbourhoods

The money is part of a $3 billion environmental justice pot finally authorised by Congress after a long battle against Republicans and conservative Democrats

Gregory Jackson Jr. wearing a breathing mask and standing in front of his home in Norco, Louisiana, near numerous industrial plants. (Photo credit: Les Stone/Greenpeace)


US president Joe Biden’s administration announced on Thursday it will select 11 organisations across the United States to administer $550 million in grants to disadvantaged communities for reducing legacy pollution and gaining access to clean energy.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will fund organisations, which could include large non-profit groups, tribal nations and universities, that will serve as grantmakers for its new Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking program that will invest in community-led projects in areas that have been historically overburdened by air and water pollution.

The money is part of $3 billion included for environmental justice block grants authorized by Congress in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the Biden administration’s signature legislation that will drive investment of nearly $369 billion in clean energy and climate priorities.

“The money that we have been entrusted with is more than triage. It is more than fixing a small problem. The scale and the vision of this investment that Congress has given us will change these communities,” Robin Morris Collin, senior advisor for environmental justice at the EPA, told Reuters in an interview.

Last September, the EPA launched a new office focused on the needs of low-income and minority communities that have been overburdened by pollution. It will oversee the deployment of the $3 billion in environmental justice grants.

The programme will help the Biden administration meet its goal of delivering 40% of the overall benefits of federal climate investments to disadvantaged communities and under-invested communities, which have had trouble accessing federal support.

“We are stepping our processes up to expand what has traditionally not been a very welcoming environment for low income and disadvantaged communities to access financial resources,” Collin told Reuters.

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The block grant program is one of several investments the IRA made focused on environmental and climate justice.

This month, the EPA outlined how states and non profit groups can apply for up to $27 billion from “green banks” that will offer low-cost financing for clean energy and emission reducing projects.

The deadline for organizations to apply is May 31, 2023. EPA expects the grant makers to start awarding subgrants no later than early 2024.

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