• Business Business

Community leaders describe 'beast' of process attempting to access EPA grant offer: 'I was actually shocked'

"The EPA needs to really humble itself and think about what it means to partner with community-led efforts."

"The EPA needs to really humble itself and think about what it means to partner with community-led efforts."

Photo Credit: iStock

The Biden administration has helped make billions of dollars in funding available to reduce air pollution and clean up unsafe drinking water in vulnerable communities, but some have found that obtaining access to those funds is a complicated and disheartening ordeal. 

What happened?

As detailed by the Guardian, several organizations have turned down grants from the Environmental Protection Agency after trying to navigate a complex and seemingly loophole-filled process.

In Greeley, Colorado, the nonprofit 350 Colorado was awarded around $500,000 to monitor the air quality of the community, which is located near a fracking site known to release harmful cancer-causing chemicals like benzene, into the atmosphere. 

However, the air-quality monitoring firm that 350 Colorado agreed to partner with didn't have the budget to undergo an accounting and reporting procedures overhaul requested by the EPA, and after months of attempts to get things in order, the project was scrapped. 

Cultivando, an organization that planned to monitor air quality in a Hispanic-majority community by a petroleum refinery near Denver, ran into similar issues after receiving a grant. It also had to back out of the program, even though radioactive particles and fine inhalable particles (PM2.5) had previously been detected at high levels in the area. 

The report comes after climate campaign coordinator Morgan King from West Virginia described the grant application process as a "beast" in August 2023 — about a year after the Biden administration allocated $60 billion for vulnerable communities under the Inflation Reduction Act

Why is this concerning?

The apparent disconnect between organizations and federal procedures could significantly set back efforts to create a healthier future, hindering the collection of valuable data that can be used to effectively advocate for change

"I was actually shocked that they didn't know more," Cultivando executive director Olga Gonzalez told the Guardian of the EPA's lack of knowledge regarding how community organizations operate. "The EPA needs to really humble itself and think about what it means to partner with community-led efforts."

While HEPA filters can be a useful tool to help clean up indoor environments, most of the world is breathing unhealthy air, which has been linked to lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. According to the World Health Organization, "Almost every organ in the body can be impacted by air pollution," with some particles even able to enter our bloodstreams. 

Black, Latino, immigrant, and low-income communities are among those disproportionately impacted by air pollution, with zoning laws and highway expansions being some of the factors increasing their potential for exposure to harmful particles.  

What is being done about this?

EPA press secretary Remmington Belford told the Guardian the agency is planning to work with both 350 Colorado and Cultivando to potentially identify opportunities for future funding. 

The agency, in partnership with the Department of Energy, is also putting $177 million toward 16 Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers "to help underserved and overburdened communities" navigate the system. 

Belford added that a free monthly webinar in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Network is also underway. 

Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider