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Gulf Coast groups to distribute $50M in federal environmental justice grants later this year

A crowd gathers at Congo Square for the "Power Up in the Gulf" event for climate justice on Nov. 3, 2023.
Minh Ha
Verite News
A crowd gathers at Congo Square for the "Power Up in the Gulf" event for climate justice on Nov. 3, 2023.

This story was originally published by Verite News.

Environmental and climate justice groups in the New Orleans region may be in line for federal grants for things like monitoring air quality, solarizing, weatherization and more because of a new program announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency late last year.

A group of environmental and climate justice organizations from New Orleans and Houston were chosen to give out $50 million in grants directly to other nonprofits in EPA’s Region 6 that are trying to clean up their communities and reduce the use of greenhouse gases. Region 6 consists of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and 66 tribal nations.

The funds are part of a $600 million program called the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking Program, in which 11 groups were chosen to make grants to nonprofits throughout the country on behalf of the EPA. It’s part of a larger push by the Biden administration to fund environmental and climate justice initiatives in communities hardest hit by pollution and the effects of climate change, such as stronger and more frequent storms and hotter and longer lasting heat waves.

In addition to those funds the program is bringing something else that environmental and climate leaders have been demanding for decades: direct investment into communities that bypasses state governments. Bob Bullard, founder of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University, one of the groups selected as a Region 6 grantmaker, said this is particularly helpful in states where the government has long ignored the demands of marginalized groups.

The program “is designed to bypass states, particularly those states that have a bad track record or horrific history of neglecting poor communities, black and brown communities and communities that that are on the fence line with polluting industries,” he told Verite News.

The other organizations that were selected to distribute grants in Region 6 were Achieving Community Tasks Successfully in Houston and New Orleans-based groups HBCU-CBO Gulf Coast Equity Consortium, HBCU Climate Change Consortium and the National Black Environmental Justice Network. Bullard is a founder and leader of the three New Orleans-based organizations along with Beverly Wright, a native New Orleanian and founder and executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. Wright could not be reached for comment by publication time.

Wright and Bullard have worked closely together for decades on a variety of environmental and climate issues affecting the Gulf Coast.

There’s a litany of projects and initiatives that these funds can go toward, Bullard said. “When you look at the … environmental challenges facing communities of color and low-income communities, there’s a lot of commonality when we talk about issues around emergency preparedness and disaster resilience,” he said. “We’ve talked about jobs and workforce development in terms of green jobs and dealing with greenhouse gas reduction, energy efficiency, weatherization, air monitoring and fenceline communities.”

The EPA said it anticipates grants will start going out to nonprofits starting this summer. Bullard said he wants to start distributing the money as soon as it’s available. Organizations in Region 6 interested in receiving grants will be able to respond to an application call from the grantmaking groups planned for later this year.

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