January 2022

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Welcome to EPA Region 1/New England’s Environmental Justice (EJ) Newsletter. The purpose of this newsletter is to provide a quarterly digest of EJ news, funding opportunities, trainings, and webinars.

In December 2021, Marcus Holmes, EPA New England’s EJ Coordinator, left EPA to pursue a new professional opportunity. Please reach out to Jeff Norcross (norcross.jeffrey@epa.gov), EPA New England’s EJ Program Manager, if you have any EJ-related questions or concerns.  

News & Press Releases

Register for March 8, 2022, Listening Session on EPA’s New Lead Strategy

EPA is hosting a series of upcoming public listening sessions on the Draft Strategy to Reduce Lead Exposures and Disparities in U.S. Communities (Lead Strategy), so communities and stakeholders can provide their comments on the Agency’s plan. Virtual listening sessions will be held for each EPA geographic office and the Region 1/New England focused listening session will be held on March 8, 2022. The session will be held in the evening, starting at 6:00 PM, to allow an opportunity for the public to fully participate and provide verbal input on the draft Lead Strategy to EPA. Registration is required and there is a maximum participant number of 1,000 for the ZoomGOV platform. Please register today for Region 1’s session on March 8, 2022.

EPA Releases Draft EJ Action Plan for its Land Protection and Cleanup Programs

On January 5, 2022, EPA released a draft “EJ Action Plan: Building Up EJ in EPA’s Land Protection and Cleanup Programs” highlighting projects, tools, and practices to be applied to the Agency’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) programs. These programs include Superfund, Brownfields, Emergency Response, Solid Waste Management and Corrective Action, and Underground Storage Tanks. EPA will provide opportunities for meaningful public input at several upcoming virtual and in-person engagement events in 2022. EPA welcomes feedback. Please submit any feedback on the draft plan to EJActionPlanOLEM21@epa.gov.

Read the full Press Release.

EPA Wraps Up a Year of Significant Accomplishments

In 2021, under the new leadership of the Biden-Harris Administration and Administrator Michael S. Regan, EPA took significant steps forward in tackling the climate crisis, advancing EJ, protecting the health and safety of communities across the country, and restoring scientific integrity.

Read the full Press Release.

EPA Releases Screening Methodology to Evaluate Chemical Exposures and Risks to Fenceline Communities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released for public comment and peer review version 1.0 of a proposed screening level methodology to evaluate potential chemical exposures and associated potential risks to fenceline communities in Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) risk evaluations.

Read the full Press Release.

EPA Announces $1.3 Million to Fund 13 EJ Grants in New England

EPA announced $1,350,000 in EJ grant funding for 13 grants in New England selected through the EJ Small Grants (EJSG) and Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement (EJCPS) programs. The New England projects are among 133 grants, totaling $14.1 million, announced by EPA to advance EJ nationwide.

In New England, ten EJ Small Grant recipients have been selected to receive up to $75,000 each, and three EJCPS grant recipients have been selected to receive up to $200,000 each, following successful completion of the award process. The majority of these EJ grants are receiving funds appropriated through the American Rescue Plan (ARP).

“EPA is very proud to be funding thirteen important projects in five New England states to help overburdened communities address longstanding environmental concerns,” said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro. “EPA New England has always made addressing EJ concerns a priority, and we are now redoubling that commitment to ensure that EPA is protecting public health and the environment for all our citizens.”

Read the full Press Release.

EPA Announces Water Infrastructure Funding for States Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Calls for Prioritizing Underserved Communities

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan announced funding that states, Tribes, and territories will receive in 2022 through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This funding, provided through EPA’s State Revolving Fund (SRF) programs, will create jobs while upgrading America’s aging water infrastructure and addressing key challenges like lead in drinking water and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination.

EPA will allocate $7.4 billion to states, Tribes, and territories for 2022, with nearly half of this funding available as grants or principal forgiveness loans that remove barriers to investing in essential water infrastructure in underserved communities across rural America and in urban centers. The 2022 allocation is the first of five years of nearly $44 billion in dedicated EPA SRF funding that states will receive through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Read the full Press Release.

On his Journey to Justice, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan Toured Historically Marginalized Communities in the American South, Highlighted Benefits of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan traveled throughout Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas to spotlight longstanding EJ concerns in historically marginalized communities and hear firsthand from residents dealing with the impacts of pollution. Throughout the tour, the Administrator highlighted the benefits of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Build Back Better agenda, focusing on historic investments in water infrastructure, Superfund, Brownfields, and in air quality improvements that will lead to lasting public health protections in communities that need them most.  

Read the full Press Release.

EPA Appoints New Members to National EJ Advisory Council

EPA announced the appointment of ten new members to the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC). Established in 1993, the NEJAC provides advice and recommendations about broad, cross-cutting issues related to EJ to the EPA Administrator. These new members are coming to the NEJAC from academia, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, state and local governments, and tribal governments. They will serve for an initial one-year term.

EPA selected new members from a very large pool of qualified candidates. Selections were made in accordance with the NEJAC charter to achieve balance and diversity in terms of geographic location, gender, ethnicity, and stakeholder perspective.

Read the full Press Release.

Grant Opportunities

EPA: Drivers and Environmental Impacts Of Energy Transitions In Underserved Communities – link

Closing Date:  April 28, 2022

EPA, as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications proposing community-engaged research that will address the drivers and environmental impacts of energy transitions in underserved communities. For purposes of this competition and the evaluation of applications, “underserved communities” refers to populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life, including people of color, low income, rural, tribal, indigenous, and other populations that may be disproportionately impacted by environmental harms and risks.

EPA Opens $20 Million Grant Competition for Community Air Pollution Monitoring – link

Closing Date: March 25, 2022

Pursuant to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), EPA’s Office of Air Quality Planning & Standards (OAQPS) is announcing the availability of funds and soliciting applications from eligible entities to conduct ambient air monitoring of pollutants of greatest concern in communities with environmental and health outcome disparities stemming from pollution and the COVID-19 pandemic. EPA will award funds to support community and local efforts to monitor their own air quality and to promote air quality monitoring partnerships between communities and tribal, state, and local governments.

The total estimated funding for this competitive opportunity is approximately $20,000,000. Approximately $2 million dollars of this amount will be awarded to tribal governments under a tribal government set-aside, and approximately $2 million will be awarded to eligible community-based organizations under a community-based organization set-aside.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) – link

Closing Date: February 28, 2022

This program is designed to provide technical assistance and training for small rural businesses. Small means that the business has fewer than 50 new workers and less than $1 million in gross revenue. The purpose of the program is to promote economic development and job creation projects through the awarding of grant funds to eligible entities.

Applications will compete in two separate categories, business opportunity grants and business enterprise grants, for use in funding various business and community projects that serve rural areas.

Enterprise grants must be used on projects to benefit small and emerging businesses in rural areas as specified in the grant application.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural eConnectivity Program – link

Closing Date: February 22, 2022

The Rural Utilities Service, a Rural Development agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), hereinafter referred to as “RUS” or “the Agency” is issuing a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) to announce that it is accepting applications for fiscal year 2022 (FY 22) for the Rural eConnectivity Program (the ReConnect Program).

The ReConnect Program provides loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas. In facilitating the expansion of broadband services and infrastructure, the program will fuel long-term rural economic development and opportunities in rural America.

The Agency encourages applicants to consider projects that will advance the following key priorities:

  • Assisting Rural communities recover economically from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly disadvantaged communities.
  • Ensuring all rural residents have equitable access to Rural Development programs and benefits from Rural Development funded projects.
  • Reducing climate pollution and increasing resilience to the impacts of climate change through economic support to rural communities.

U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) American Rescue Plan – Good Jobs Challenge – link

Closing Date: February 10, 2022

EDA’s American Rescue Plan Good Jobs Challenge aims to get Americans back to work by building and strengthening systems and partnerships that bring together employers who have hiring needs with other key entities to train workers with in-demand skills that lead to good-paying jobs. Through the Good Jobs Challenge, EDA is allocating $500 million to collaborative skills training systems and programs. EDA encourages efforts to reach historically underserved populations and areas, communities of color, women, and other groups facing labor market barriers such as persons with disabilities, disconnected youth, individuals in recovery, individuals with past criminal records, including justice impacted and reentry participants, serving trainees participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and veterans and military spouses.

Trainings and Webinars

Groundtruth: EJ in 2022—Perspectives From EPA – link                      

In the Environmental Law Institute’s People Places Planet Podcast, Stacey Halliday of Beveridge & Diamond, talks to Matt Tejada, Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), and Charles Lee, Senior Policy Advisor, OEJ. Charles and Matthew share perspectives from their senior roles at EPA, discuss how far the Agency has come and how to contextualize the change that we are currently seeing, and identify key goals for 2022 as well as best practices for those trying to incorporate EJ considerations into their work.

NEJAC Public Meeting – January 5, 2022

This meeting provided an opportunity for the NEJAC to advise EPA on the EJ and civil rights compliance elements in the Draft FY 2022-2026 EPA Strategic Plan, as well as other aligned efforts and plans of the agency. A recording will be made available here.

Keys to Success: Water Recycling in Small and Disadvantaged Communities – link

This EPA webinar helps water managers in small and resource-limited communities learn what it takes to be successful in developing and implementing wastewater reuse and stormwater capture and use projects.

Register here to access the recording.

Using Health Impact Assessments to Engage Communities and Prioritize Action – link

Communities that have faced de-industrialization and disinvestment can face a range of issues that affect public health. Officials from EPA and George Washington University joined the Smart Growth Network to discuss how Health Impact Assessments can help communities identify local challenges to public health and develop practical approaches to improve health outcomes, with local examples from across the nation.

The webinar was the fifth in the Smart Growth Network webinar series, Learning from (and Leaning on) Local Leaders to Revitalize African American Neighborhoods, with staff from U.S. EPA’s Brownfields/Land Revitalization program and Office of Community Revitalization. 

Justice40 Initiative – A Whole-of-Government Approach to Advance EJ – link

EPA’s OEJ hosted a discussion about Justice40, an initiative announced in Presidential Executive Order 14008, to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to disadvantaged communities. The Justice40 Initiative is a critical part of the Administration’s whole-of-government approach to advancing EJ. The webinar will include EPA’s commitment to implement this initiative, including some specific programs efforts to implement the initiative.

This webinar is part of the EPA’s  EJ Webinar Series for Tribes and Indigenous Peoples – to build the capacity of tribal governments, indigenous peoples and other EJ practitioners, and discuss priority EJ issues of interest to tribes and indigenous peoples.

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