Introduction
Overview
Next steps


Introduction

On 10 January 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of $100 million for two environmental justice (EJ) grant programmes. This funding is provided through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)(1) and builds on previous investments from the American Rescue Plan (ARP).(2) Specifically, the IRA provided $2.8 billion to the EPA through the Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grant Program to support community-led projects that:

  • monitor and prevent pollution;
  • invest in low- and zero-emission technology;
  • bolster infrastructure and workforce development efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • mitigate climate and health risks from urban heat islands, extreme heat and wildfire events;
  • support climate resilience and adaptation; and
  • engage disadvantaged communities in state and federal advisory groups, rulemaking and other public processes.

This funding opportunity serves as the largest EJ investment in EPA history, bolstering the Biden administration's Justice40 Initiative, which calls for 40% of climate and clean energy-related federal investments to flow into communities disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Overview

The EPA's funding announcement details that the $100 million investment is divvied up as follows:

  • $30 million for the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program; and
  • $70 million for the Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G) Program.

The EJCPS Cooperative Agreement Program will directly support non-profit organisations as well as facilitate partnerships with such groups. The EJCPS Cooperative Agreement Program seeks to support eligible organisations in developing and implementing projects that address environmental or public health issues in local communities. Leveraging the EPA's Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Model, the EJCPS program encourages recipients to engage in collaborative partnerships with local businesses and government, medical service providers, academic institutions and other stakeholders. The EPA is poised to distribute 50 awards of $500,000 and 30 awards of $150,000.

The EJG2G Program – formerly known as the State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement Program – aims to create model state activities resulting in measurable environmental or public health benefits for communities overburdened by the impacts of climate change. The programme calls on models to leverage existing state agency resources to build out tools and processes that incorporate EJ considerations into state government programs. In total, the EPA will support approximately 70 projects of up to $1 million each for a three-year project. The EJG2G funding is to be allocated as follows:

  • $20 million for state governments to be utilised in collaboration with community-based organisations (CBOs);
  • $20 million for local governments to be used alongside CBOs;
  • $20 million for federally recognised tribal nations to be distributed with CBO partners; and
  • $10 million for US territories and remote tribes with minimal access to CBOs.

For both the aforementioned grant programmes, the EPA will:

  • extend special consideration to projects that are located in or benefit rural areas;
  • include Health Impact Assessments; or
  • centre on climate change, disaster resiliency or emergency preparedness.

By supporting community-based organisations, each program ensures local organisations that best understand the needs of their communities are prioritised.

Next steps

Applicants must submit proposal packages by 10 April 2023 for funding consideration. Moreover, the EPA notes that applicants should anticipate projects to begin on 1 October 2023. As such, the EPA hosted two, pre-application assistance webinars on 24 January for the EJCPS Program and 26 January for the EJG2G Program.

For further information on this topic please contact Kenneth J Markowitz at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP by telephone (+1 202 887 4000) or email ([email protected]). The Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP website can be accessed at www.akingump.com.

Nicole Franklin, law clerk, and Leila Fleming, public policy specialist, assisted in the preparation of this article.

Endnotes

(1) P L 117-169; IRA.

(2) P L 117-2; ARP.