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News Releases from Region 01

Organizations in R.I., Conn. and Mass. Awarded Funding for Environmental Work in Area Communities

Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)

BOSTON - Four non-profit organizations in New England were awarded a total of $120,000 by the US Environmental Protection Agency to address local health and environmental issues in minority and low-income communities, which face more than their fair share of pollution. The New England grant winners - two in Massachusetts, one in Rhode Island and one in Connecticut - were among 44 organizations nationwide given nearly $1.3 million to address environmental justice issues nationwide.

The New England organizations, each given $30,000, will use the funding to do research, provide education, and develop solutions to local health and environmental issues in communities overburdened by harmful pollution.

"These funds will help communities across the region understand and address exposure to a variety of environmental harms and risks," said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "EPA is committed to addressing the impacts of climate change so many of the projects supported by this year's grants will help communities prepare for local climate impacts."

The following organizations won the funding in New England:

The Trustees of Reservations received funding for its Boston Youth Conservation Corps, which engages 15- to 18-year-olds in the neighborhoods of Mattapan, Roxbury, Hyde Park, East Boston, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain in experiential learning and developing job skills. Projects such as enhancing urban greenways, tending gardens, and planting native vegetation trails immerse teens in the green spaces of the city, while raising their awareness of pollution, air and water quality and access to healthy food. The project aims to address high rates of asthma, diabetes and obesity in Boston's poorest neighborhoods, which report a disproportionately high rate of asthma and diabetes hospitalizations and adult obesity and the least amount of open space per child.

"An important part of The Trustees' mission is to engage more young people in 'green' jobs that help them earn income, develop important skills, and gain a broader appreciation for environmental stewardship, community gardening, and healthy, active living," said Jocelyn Forbush, chief of operations and programs for The Trustees. "Our Youth Corps members often comment on the sense of pride they feel in learning how they can contribute to their communities and the local food and gardening movement. We are grateful that this EPA grant will enable us to hire more urban and underserved youth in Boston where we hope to have an even greater impact."

Regional Environmental Council in Worcester received the funding for its project called Greening Our Gardens - Urban Growing Strategies for Climate Resiliency. This project will promote efficient water use, storm water run-off prevention, and the use of gardening practices that can contribute to climate resiliency, including carbon sequestration. It also aims to increase access to healthy food in Worcester's lowest-income/highest risk neighborhoods through an educational program for urban gardeners. The project will impact gardens across the city, but resources will be focused in the city's five lowest income and highest-risk neighborhoods. The council is partnering with the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and the state Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

"We're excited to be working with the EPA this year to help promote food justice and prevent climate change in Worcester," said Steven Fischer, executive director of the Regional Environmental Council. "EJ small grants are a critical resource for the important EJ work that organization are doing here in New England and through the country."

New Haven Ecology in New Haven, Conn., (known as Common Ground), received the funding for its project called Green Jobs Corps - Creating a New Generation of New Haven Environmental Justice Leaders. Common Ground and its partners, the Conn. Fund for the Environment and the Urban Resources Initiative, will involve local youth in environmental jobs that improve access to clean water by identifying threats to water quality and educating residents about these threats. The project also aims to improve air quality, water quality, and access to other critical ecosystem services in urban low-income communities of color by addressing disproportionate access to urban street trees, green spaces, and green infrastructure. They will also work to bring greener approaches to stormwater management.

"Our goal through Common Ground's Green Jobs Corps is to connect more than three dozen of our city's young people with paid work that helps them grow into a new, more diverse generation of environmental justice leaders," said Joel Tolman, director of impact and engagement at Common Ground High School, Urban Farm, and Environmental Education Center. "With EPA support, these young people are tackling pressing environmental justice challenges: planting more than 100 street trees, stewarding urban greenspaces, building new green infrastructure, cleaning up our impaired urban waters, and bringing public attention to clean air and clean water challenges. "

The Childhood Lead Action Project, Inc., a state-wide organization in Rhode Island, received funding for its Lead-Safe Central Falls program, which will work in one of state's highest risk communities to reduce the incidence of childhood lead poisoning by helping residents address the presence of lead-based paint in their community.

"The Lead Safe Central Falls project, recently funded by the EPA, will go a long way in reducing lead poisoning in one of the poorest communities in Rhode Island," said said Roberta Hazen Aaronson, executive director of Lead Safe Central Falls. "The Childhood Lead Action Project has had success in other communities with EPA funding and we expect to be successful in Central Falls as well."

EPA's EJ Small Grants have helped many community organizations to make a visible difference in their communities. The 2015 grants will help organizations carry out projects that will educate residents about environmental issues that may impact their health, collect data about local environmental conditions, and work collaboratively to address environmental justice issues in their communities. The grants support activities that not only address a range of community concerns, but also support activities that are educating and empowering youth and the next generation of environmental stewards. Environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race or income, in the environmental decision-making process. Since 1994, EPA's environmental justice small grants program has supported projects to address environmental justice issues in nearly 1,500 communities.

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