EPA and U.S. Senator Tom Carper Announce Historic Investments Advancing Environmental Justice for Underserved Communities
PHILADELPHIA (September 26, 2023) – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz and U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) today announced the award of $12 million to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), partnering with the University of Maryland (UMD), to help underserved and overburdened communities in the Mid-Atlantic Region access funds from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, including historic investments to advance environmental justice.
NWF is among 16 Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs) across the country that are receiving $177 million from EPA in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
“I’m thrilled to have the National Wildlife Federation and the University of Maryland Center for Community Engagement as our partners in this historic endeavor,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ortiz. “For many years, environmental justice leaders have called for a system of support, including access to technical assistance and funding to build community capacity from the ground up. Through the Biden-Harris Administration's Justice40 Initiative, this critical need will be met.”
“In the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, we secured unprecedented funding to address pollution, expand clean water access, and build safer, more equitable infrastructure. Now, we have a moral obligation to ensure that these investments reach those communities with the greatest need,” said Senator Carper, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “I am delighted that EPA is awarding the National Wildlife Federation and its partner organizations $12 million to help underserved and historically disadvantaged communities across our region access the technical assistance they need to better navigate the process of securing federal funding.”
For the first time in the nation’s history, the federal government set a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.
“This community-led and community-driven effort will assist communities suffering environmental and energy injustices that have been revictimized by being unable to access federal grants, to compete equitably for federal dollars,” said Adrienne Hollis, vice president of environmental justice, public health, and community revitalization at the National Wildlife Federation, and co-director of the EPA Mid-Atlantic Region EJ TCTAC. “It also will help communities access the technical assistance they need to address the root causes and effects of systemic racism.”
“Many communities in the Mid-Atlantic region have experienced decades of toxic trauma, being used as sacrifice zones, health inequities, and economic inequality due to racial and economic segregation, the lack of investment, and structural poverty,” said Dr. Sacoby Wilson, Director, Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health at the University of Maryland. “This new center will act as infrastructure to help 'inpower' frontline and fenceline communities impacted by environmental and energy injustice issues; provide technical assistance to help build their capacity to secure funding from federal and non-federal sources; and collaborate with governmental agencies at the local and state level and businesses in the clean energy sector to actualize their vision of a just, healthy, and environmentally safe community.”
EJ TCTACs will provide training and other assistance to build capacity for navigating federal grant application systems, writing strong grant proposals, and effectively managing grant funding. In addition, these centers will guide community engagement, facilitation, and translation and interpretation services for limited English-speaking participants, removing barriers and improving accessibility for communities.
EPA will deliver these resources in collaboration with the DOE, whose funding allows the centers to provide support for identifying community opportunities for clean energy transition and financing options, including public-private partnerships, workforce development and outreach opportunities that advance energy justice.
The centers will provide comprehensive coverage for the entire United States through a network of partners including community-based organizations, additional academic institutions, and Environmental Finance Centers, so that more communities can access federal funding opportunities.
Among the categories of investment that Justice40 includes are climate change, clean energy and energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, remediation and reduction of legacy pollution, and the development of critical clean water and wastewater infrastructure.