The EPA recently opened applications for $2 billion in environmental and climate justice community change grants.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced approximately $2 billion in funding available to support community-driven projects that deploy clean energy, strengthen climate resilience, and build capacity for communities to tackle environmental and climate justice challenges. The EPA’s Community Change Grants are the single largest investment in environmental justice going directly to communities in history and will advance collaborative efforts to achieve a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future for all.
The Community Change Grants will deliver 100 percent of the benefits of this program to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. This program also dedicates $200 million of Inflation Reduction Act funding to provide technical assistance to applicants and grant recipients, which will enhance the ability of disadvantaged communities to access resources for environmental and climate justice activities.
The activities to be performed under the grants are expected to fall under the following categories:
- Climate resiliency and adaptation.
- Mitigating climate and health risks from urban heat islands, extreme heat, wood heater emissions, and wildfire events.
- Community-led air and other (including water and waste) pollution monitoring, prevention, and remediation.
- Investments in low- and zero-emission and resilient technologies and related infrastructure.
- Workforce development that supports the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants.
- Reducing indoor toxics and indoor air pollution.
- Facilitating the engagement of disadvantaged communities in state and federal advisory groups, workshops, rulemakings, and other public processes.
The Community Change Grants Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), administered through the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights (OEJECR), has several unique characteristics to advance environmental and climate justice, many of which are responsive to feedback and input the agency has heard from communities. These include:
- Rolling Applications: The NOFO will be open for a year, closing on November 21, 2024, and EPA will review applications on a rolling basis. This allows applicants to utilize technical assistance and possibly resubmit a new application if not initially selected. EPA encourages applicants to apply as early as possible.
- Two-track Submission Processes: Applications can be submitted under two separate tracks depending on the project scope and funding requested.
- Track I, Community-Driven Investments for Change, is expected to award approximately $1.96 billion for 150 projects for $10-20 million each.
- Track II, Meaningful Engagement for Equitable Governance, is expected to award approximately $40 million for 20 projects for $1-3 million each.
- Oral Presentations: Track I applicants may also be invited to participate in an oral presentation. These oral presentations will enable EPA reviewers to hear directly from the applicants and their partners to learn more about community priorities, desired outcomes, and plans for long-term sustainability. This new format is responsive to community requests to engage with EPA in more accessible ways.
- Target Investment Areas: Out of the $2 billion in funding, EPA has identified five Target Investment Areas (TIA) to help ensure that communities with unique circumstances, geography, and needs can equitably compete for funding. These are:
- Tribes in Alaska: $150 million for projects benefitting Indian Tribes in Alaska including funds for cleanup of contaminated lands.
- Tribes: $300 million for projects benefitting Tribal communities in the other states.
- Territories: $50 million for projects benefitting disadvantaged communities in the United States’ territories of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
- Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities: $50 million for projects benefitting small and rural areas that lack fixed, legally determined geographic boundaries, such as Colonias.
- U.S.-Southern Border Communities: Consistent with EPA’s longstanding commitment to addressing transborder pollution challenges, $100 million for projects benefitting non-Tribal disadvantaged communities within 100 kilometers north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Technical Assistance: The $200 million for technical assistance is available in direct response to feedback from communities and environmental justice leaders who have long called for capacity building support for communities and their partners as they work to access critical federal resources. With this funding, there are two TA programs dedicated for the Community Change Grants. Applicants can learn more about, and express interest in, the technical assistance on EPA’s Community Change Grants Technical Assistance webpage.
OEJECR will also host multiple informational webinars while the NOFO is open, with the first being held on December 7, 2023. These webinars will address questions, and some may facilitate the formation of partnerships and information sharing.