The Environmental Protection Agency has announced grants for projects to monitor air quality in 37 states, with a focus on minority communities and other areas overburdened by pollution. It’s part of a commitment by the Biden administration to focus on environmental justice in communities adversely affected by decades of industrial pollution.
A total of 132 projects will receive $53.4 million to enhance air quality monitoring near chemical plants, refineries and other industrial sites. The grants are funded by the sweeping climate and health law President Joe Biden signed in August and the coronavirus relief plan approved by Congress last year.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced the grants Thursday. Eight projects being funded are in neighborhoods that Regan visited on what he calls a “Journey to Justice” tour of communities plagued by long-term pollution.
Find AP’s story on the announcement here.
Here are the details on the projects and tips for localizing your coverage:
WHO GETS THE MONEY?
Under the grants announced Thursday, there are 132 recipients in 37 states and Washington, D.C., including 23 tribal organization and dozens of nonprofits. The states included are:
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
— More than half the selected applications are from community and nonprofit organizations. Tribes are receiving 12% of the total funding, including the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Navajo Nation, Tule River Tribal Council, Upper Mattaponi, Fort McDermitt Pauite-Shoshone and the Cherokee Nation.
WHAT ARE THE PROJECTS?
— A list of the 132 projects with additional context provided by EPA can be found here.
— The EPA news release announcing the grants is available here.
WHAT ARE SOME KEY QUESTIONS?
Reporting questions include when these projects will start, how they will affect the community and how they will assist in monitoring — and ultimately reducing — air pollution in overburdened communities.
— Ask state, local and tribal officials what the process and timeline will look like to put the grant money into effect. How quickly will the target communities gain access to real-time air monitoring? When will construction start, and how long will it take?
— What do your state, local or tribal officials say are the types of projects needed in your area? What impact will improved air quality monitoring have on the community?
— Ask state, local or tribal officials whether other pots of money from government or outside sources have been made available to monitor air or water pollution. Do they expect to receive any additional infrastructure grants or loans?
— What do local activists and community leaders say about the effect that improved air-quality monitoring will have on quality of life in your region? Regan said, “All people, no matter where they live, deserve clean water and clean air and the opportunity to live a healthy life.” Do local leaders think EPA is living up to that promise?
— Ask your state lawmakers whether there are other communities or groups, besides those included in the grant allocation, that will still be left without needed air-quality monitoring. What is being done at the state level to expand access for air monitoring to more communities?
WHAT’S THE BACKGROUND?
The grants follow enforcement actions announced by Regan in January to conduct unannounced inspections of chemical plants, refineries and other industrial sites in three Gulf Coast states suspected of polluting air and water and causing health problems to nearby residents. He also has visited other urban, rural and tribal areas as part of his focus on environmental justice, which EPA defines as the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.”
This grant money “is headed where it’s needed most,″ Regan said, adding that the newly funded projects “will ensure dozens of overburdened communities have the tools they need to better understand air quality challenges in their neighborhoods and will help protect people from the dangers posed by air pollution.”
The Biden administration says the grant selections further Biden’s goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to overburdened and minority communities that face disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental impacts from industrial pollution. Do local officials agree that EPA is doing enough to invest in efforts to better protect people’s health, particularly those in underserved communities?
— U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov
— Robert Bullard, director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice and widely acknowledged “father” of environmental justice movement: https://drrobertbullard.com/
— Deep South Center for Environmental Justice: https://www.dscej.org/