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EPA announces projects to boost 'environmental justice' in Colorado

Grants deliver on President Biden’s commitment to 'advance equity' throughout the U.S.
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Grants include $500,000 to buy, distribute and monitor 100 electric bicycles for members of underserved communities in Pueblo | Stock photo

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced more than $3.5 million to fund projects across Colorado that "advance environmental justice" as part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the City and County of Denver, the National Wildlife Federation, EcoAction Partners, Denver Urban Gardens and the Bessemer Historical Society will each receive EPA funding for projects to "ensure disadvantaged communities that have historically suffered from pollution have access to clean air and water and climate resilience solutions" in alignment with the Biden-Harris administration’s Justice40 Initiative, according to a news release from the EPA.  

Thanks to President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act – the largest climate investment in U.S. history – the funding is a part the largest investment ever announced under these two longstanding EPA programs, the agency says.

It added that 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.” 

The EPA said the grants announced Tuesday deliver on President Biden’s commitment to advance equity and justice throughout the United States. The two grant programs directly advance the President’s transformational 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 that create a designation of funds exclusively for small nonprofit organizations, which are defined as having five 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. 

EPA EJCPS grant selections in Colorado include the following:  

  • The National Wildlife Federation will receive approximately $500,000 to address public health issues in the Globeville neighborhood, a historically underserved area in northeast Denver. The project team aims to decrease the impact of Interstate-70 on area residents by planting climate friendly trees and plants and installing green infrastructure that will mitigate impacts of the highway by reducing noise, air pollution, polluted runoff and the heat island effect.  

  • EcoAction Partners will receive approximately $50,000 to address environmental and public health vulnerabilities related to wildfire and drought preparedness, energy, recreation and advocacy in San Miguel County and Montrose County. This funding will bolster access to programs that address inequalities around these vulnerabilities through education and outreach to underserved residents and and increase public health and climate and environmental resiliency among underserved populations. 

  • Denver Urban Gardens will receive approximately $500,000 to deliver its Dig Deeper Initiative to targeted West Denver neighborhoods to achieve public health and environmental benefits and address environmental justice issues. Project goals include 1) decreasing urban heat island in neighborhoods through a Food Forest Initiative which brings fruit-bearing trees and perennials to existing community gardens, new gardens and other vacant lots; 2) increasing carbon sequestration capacity of community gardens and other greenspaces to improve air quality 3) decreasing greenhouse gas emissions by increasing local food options, thereby decreasing food miles required for residents to obtain fresh, healthy foods. 

  • The Bessemer Historical Society of Pueblo will receive approximately $500,000 to work with Steelworks Center of the West to purchase, distribute and monitor 100 Class 2 electric bicycles to members of underserved communities in Pueblo.  

Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G): 

EPA’s EJG2G 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.  

EPA EJG2G grant selections in Colorado include the following:  

  • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will receive approximately $1 million to develop a stakeholder process and pilot study to encourage collaboration among small drinking water and wastewater systems in rural, underserved areas of Colorado. The project will increase resources to help systems effectively comply with health-based drinking water standards and wastewater discharge standards and address technical, managerial and financial barriers to compliance.  

  • The City and County of Denver will receive approximately $1 million to establish a Healthy Affordable Home Electrification Program which will provide home electrification and weatherization retrofits for households with critical needs in Denver’s Globeville, Elyria Swansea and Northeast Park Hill neighborhoods and in Commerce CIty.