Biden-Harris Admin Allocates $1.7 Million for Illinois Environmental Justice Projects

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $1,749,705 to fund three projects in Illinois that advance environmental justice as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the United Congregations of Metro East and the Ecology Action Center,  which EPA has selected through its Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving Cooperative Agreement and Environmental Justice Government-to-Government programs, will use the funds to ensure disadvantaged communities that have historically suffered from underinvestment have access to clean air and water and climate resilience solutions in alignment with the Biden-Harris administration’s Justice40 Initiative. 

Thanks to President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act—the largest climate investment in U.S. history—this funding is a part the largest investment ever announced under these two longstanding EPA programs. This is the first in a series of environmental justice grant announcements the agency will announce before the end of the year.

“No President has invested more in environmental justice than President Biden, and under his leadership we’re removing longstanding barriers and meaningfully collaborating with communities to build a healthier future for all,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Together, these community-driven projects will improve the health, equity, and resilience of communities while setting a blueprint for local solutions that can be applied across the nation.”

“Today’s historic announcement is one part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to ensuring all Americans have equal access to clean and safe communities,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore. “Thanks to these transformative investments, EPA is empowering overburdened communities to address environmental or public health issues in their communities.”

“EPA’s Environmental Justice Government-to-Government and Collaborative Problem-Solving programs will extend the extraordinary efforts of these organizations and their partners, tirelessly working to address the pressing environmental and public health issues that disproportionately burden communities grappling with environmental justice concerns,” said Sen. Dick Durbin. “This federal investment from Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act is a reflection of our belief that every Illinoisan, regardless of their background or where they live, deserves clean air, safe water, and a healthy environment.”

“By providing these investments to community-led initiatives that will protect and clean up Illinois’s air and water, we are helping protect the health and safety of more of our state’s families,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth. “As co-founder of the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus, I’m proud to see the Biden Administration continue to prioritize long-underserved communities that have been disproportionally saddled with pollution and abandoned infrastructure, by providing them with the ability to achieve the cleaner air and water they need and deserve.”

“Far too many communities, including many that I represent, know the pain of environmental injustice, from breathing polluted air to dealing with frequent flooding,” said Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García. “These investments in my district and across Chicago will address longstanding environmental inequities and help build a healthier, more just future.”  

“Extreme weather has plagued our region, making it difficult for Illinoisans to live comfortably—especially during the summer months,” said Rep. Eric Sorensen. “Trees are vital to our communities. They improve air quality, help lower energy costs, sequester carbon, and help prevent flooding by managing stormwater.  I am proud to see Ecology Action Center in Normal receive this investment to develop ways to mitigate the impact of extreme weather by growing more trees in Central Illinois so we can build a more sustainable region for future generations.”

“As Metro East residents continue to combat longstanding environmental health and safety problems, we have to do more to detect and address pollution,” said Rep. Nikki Budzinski. “After bringing EPA officials to East St. Louis to hear about these concerns directly, I’m so glad to join them in announcing that nearly $500,000 will be headed to the United Congregations of Metro East to monitor our local air quality and gain better insight into pollution in this region. In combination with the EPA Environmental Justice Academy announced at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, I’m hopeful that we can make real progress for the folks struggling with these persistent challenges.”

The grants announced today deliver on President Biden’s commitment to advance equity and justice throughout the United States. The two grant programs directly advance the President’s  Justice40 initiative to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution

The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem Solving (EJCPS) Program

EPA’s EJCPS program provides financial assistance to eligible organizations working to address local environmental or public health issues in their communities. The program builds upon President Biden’s Executive Orders 13985 and 14008, creating a designation of funds exclusively for small nonprofit organizations, which are defined as having 5 or fewer full-time employees, thus ensuring that grant resources reach organizations of lower capacity that historically struggle to receive federal funding. Eleven of the organizations selected for EJCPS this year are small nonprofit organizations, receiving over $1.6 million in total.

In Illinois, United Congregations of Metro East has been selected to receive $500,000 for an air pollution monitoring project, tracking industrial sources in overburdened communities in Metro East.

Ecology Action Center has been selected to receive $500,000 for the Bloomington-Normal Climate Responsive Community project.

Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G)

EPA’s EJG2G program provides funding at the state, local, territorial, and Tribal level to support government activities in partnership with community-based organizations that lead to measurable environmental or public health impacts in communities disproportionately burdened by environmental harms.

In Illinois, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has been selected to receive $749,705 for converting a five-acre Brownfield into a greenspace to improve the living environment of a vulnerable community in Chicago.

Additional Background:  

From day one of his administration, President Biden has made achieving environmental justice a top priority. And in August 2022, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, the Inflation Reduction Act into law, creating the largest investment in environmental and climate justice in U.S. history. EPA received $3 billion in appropriations to provide grants and technical assistance for activities advancing environmental and climate justice.

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, EPA has launched and expanded innovative programs to provide more support than ever before to communities that unjustly bear the burdens of environmental harm and pollution. This includes the $177 million for the creation of 16 Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTACs) to remove barriers to federal resources and help communities pursue funding opportunities like those made available through President Biden’s Investing in America Agenda. EPA has also launched and will award funds through the $550 million  Thriving Communities Grantmaking Program before the end of 2023.

 To learn more about environmental justice at EPA, visit our website.

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