The Moment is Now: Connecting the Climate Crisis and Environmental Justice
Written by: Adam Ortiz - Regional Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency
Photo courtesy of the EPA
Tackling the climate crisis and advancing environmental justice are two of the biggest challenges we face today across the United States and here, in the Mid-Atlantic.
Looked at separately, these problems may seem overwhelming. As the pace of climate change accelerates, causing billions of dollars in damage and leaving already vulnerable communities further stranded, we must act on the knowledge that environmental justice and climate change are interconnected.
EPA is working hard to ensure our investments reach communities that need them
most. We are not just a regulatory agency, we are a partner, a funder, and a problem solver. We’re in the field, working alongside local and state governments and community-based organizations, to make great things happen.
Once-in-a-generation funding opportunities through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will provide a foundation from which to address communities struggling with aging infrastructure and historical inequities. Through the government-wide mandate, known as Justice40, EPA must try to direct 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments to communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.
Currently, 73 EPA programs are covered under Justice40, and this will continue to grow. These investments will uplift those communities which are disproportionately affected by the negative environmental consequences that resulted from industrial and commercial operations and governmental policies.
Projects that address climate change and environmental justice are advancing in our region, thanks to funding from BIL and IRA. Through the Clean School Bus Program, EPA awarded nearly $100 million in rebates to schools throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission buses.
Through this program, we will eliminate or reduce school bus exhaust, which reduces health risks to children and greenhouse gas emissions. All five of our Mid-Atlantic states (DE, MD, PA, VA, WV) and D.C. recognize the importance of planning now to reduce climate and air pollution in the future through their participation in EPA’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grant program.
We listened to vulnerable communities when they voiced concerns about accessing federal funds, and we acted.
A new partnership with the Department of Energy to fund 17 Environmental Justice Thriving
Communities Technical Assistance Centers ensure that communities with environmental justice issues will now receive direct access to resources, information, and assistance when applying to EPA grants.
The Technical Assistance Center elected to serve the Mid-Atlantic Region is the National Wildlife Foundation. We will provide ongoing support to the National Wildlife Foundation as they help community organizations build capacity for navigating federal grant application systems, writing strong grant proposals, and effectively managing grant funding.
Communities must adapt to shifting weather patterns brought on by climate change. In our region, it is expected to cause more frequent and intense storms. In communities that lack resources to maintain, repair, and upgrade their water systems, the effects of these storms will be devastating and long-lasting.
Water systems that are old or were not designed to serve the population size that they are currently serving are more likely to experience problems with flooding, basement backup, sewer overflow, and sanitation.
These problems directly impact the health and the economy of communities. Mid-Atlantic
states and D.C. received over $603 million from EPA for water quality planning, to improve aging and failing water systems, to address emerging contaminants, and to replace lead pipes. All these projects will contribute to better outcomes for children’s health and more vibrant, resilient communities.
We must keep up the momentum. The climate crisis and environmental justice cannot be treated as isolated experiences. When we separate these issues, we miss the opportunity to do more in the communities that are hardest hit. Over the next few years, the EPA will strengthen its commitment to working with communities that endure a disproportionate burden of environmental harm.
Working together, we can reduce the greenhouse gases that are driving climate change and improve the quality of life for people and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region.
To learn more about the Inflation Reduction Act, visit: https://www.epa.gov/inflation-reduction-act.
To learn more about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, visit: https://www.epa.gov/infrastructure.
To get more information about Environmental Justice grants and resources, visit: