It’s Monday, February 27, and the EPA is making hundreds of millions of dollars available in environmental justice grants.

Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan

More than half a billion dollars in federal funding is on the way to help low-income communities of color fight pollution across the United States.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, announced last week that it’s making $550 million available to fund community projects that reduce pollution in overburdened communities. The agency will select 11 nonprofits to administer the grants over a three-year period starting no later than early 2024, either by themselves or in partnership with other nonprofits, tribal governments, or universities.

Underserved communities “have suffered far too long without access to crucial federal funding and resources,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

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The latest funding builds on previous efforts from the EPA to correct environmental injustices, including another $100 million in project grants announced in January. The money comes from the landmark climate spending bill that President Joe Biden signed into law last year, which earmarked some $3 billion for the EPA to put toward environmental justice block grants.

Together, the grants are intended to advance the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative — a push to deliver 40 percent of the benefits of federal climate investments to communities that are overburdened by pollution and vulnerable to climate change. Research shows that people of color face disproportionate exposure to hazardous air pollution and contaminated drinking water, and historic disinvestment in low-income areas and Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities has put them at greater risk of climate disasters like heat waves and flooding.

It remains to be seen what kind of projects will be kickstarted by the EPA’s latest $550 million, but experts have already applauded the scale of the funding. “This is a transformative amount of resources and effort … to make these communities more livable, more resilient, and more sustainable,” Sheila Foster, a law and policy professor at Georgetown University, told me. She said she’s particularly pleased to see the EPA catalyzing climate action from the bottom up by giving communities the funding needed to advance environmental justice priorities they’ve already been working on for years.

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