WASHINGTON—A year ago, when Adam Ortiz, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mid-Atlantic administrator, met with Shawn Scott here in the predominantly Black Ivy City neighborhood, she asked him a question with more than a little urgency.
“‘Adam, can you smell it?’” he remembered her asking him, referring to a chemical manufacturer next door to her home that neighbors had complained about for years. He could.
Before his visit last fall, the EPA went to the neighborhood for a walk-through and then, about six months later, the agency’s air quality division began air monitoring around the facility, a Pentagon contractor. For the Biden EPA, which has made environmental justice a core issue, the factory’s presence, which dates back to World War II and predates the Clean Air Act, symbolized the disproportionate burden of pollution communities of color have shouldered for decades.
On Tuesday, Ortiz, flanked by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), came back to Ivy City’s Trinity Baptist Church and announced a $12 million grant award to fund a technical training center designed to help historically underserved and overburdened communities across the Mid-Atlantic region access funds for climate resiliency and pollution abatement from the Biden administration’s 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and 2022 the Inflation Reduction Act.
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The EPA’s focus last year on Ivy City is one example of how the agency is listening to environmental justice communities across the country, Ortiz said. And one of the things officials heard was that those communities needed help obtaining available federal funding. Thus, Ortiz said, the $12 million grant would go toward one of 16 Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers.
The centers are being created to provide services nationwide through a network of partners including community-based organizations, colleges, universities and other academic institutions and other non-profits so that communities of color and low-income neighborhoods can access federal funding opportunities under Biden’s Justice40 initiative, which commits 40 percent of numerous federal funding streams to those communities.
Ortiz said the grant was awarded to the National Wildlife Federation, which will oversee the technical assistance center in partnership with the University of Maryland Center for Community Engagement. A total of $177 million has been appropriated through EPA and the Department of Energy to fund the 16 centers.
The technical training centers will train community organizations and nonprofits in navigating the federal government’s grant application process, with a focus on strong grant writing and funding management, Ortiz said. The centers will also provide community engagement, facilitation, translation and interpretation services for language-challenged communities.
“I’m thrilled to have the National Wildlife Federation and the University of Maryland Center for Community Engagement as our partners in this historic endeavor,” said Ortiz.
He said the technical assistance centers will provide a support network which would be critical in implementing Justice40, a commitment that covers funding for climate change, clean energy, energy efficiency, clean transit, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, remediation and reduction of legacy pollution and the development of critical clean water and wastewater infrastructure.
“We secured unprecedented funding to address pollution, expand clean water access, and build safer, more equitable infrastructure,” said Carper, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “Now, we have a moral obligation to ensure that these investments reach those communities with the greatest need.”
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EPA is partnering in creating the centers with the DOE, whose funding will help communities identify opportunities for clean energy transition and financing options, including public-private partnerships, workforce development and outreach opportunities that advance energy justice.
“We’re hoping that in the next one or two years people can start applying for funds,” said Adrienne Hollis, vice president of environmental justice, health and community revitalization at National Wildlife Federation. She said that grant writing is one of the areas needed most by the community. “So we hope to measure our success by the number of applicants we should see increase each year,” she said, “and then the number of applicants who are successful.”
“It’s time to go beyond data collection and get some work done,” said Parisa Norouzi, executive director of the D.C.-based nonprofit Empower D.C., which has been at the forefront of leading the campaign against the chemical plant in Ivy City.
She said being part of the EPA-funded technical center will bring more resources to bear on the efforts disadvantaged communities are making to improve their quality of life. “The biggest thing is being part of a bigger network of people, including scientists and community members, who are working on similar issues, and to assist each other to elevate the neighborhood’s concerns,” she said.
<div class="post-author-bio"> <div class="image-holder"> <img width="300" height="300" src="https://insideclimatenews.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/My_Pic-300x300.jpeg" class="attachment-thumbnail-medium-square size-thumbnail-medium-square" alt="Aman Azhar" decoding="async" srcset="https://insideclimatenews.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/My_Pic-300x300.jpeg 300w, https://insideclimatenews.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/My_Pic-150x150.jpeg 150w, https://insideclimatenews.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/My_Pic-64x64.jpeg 64w, https://insideclimatenews.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/My_Pic-600x600.jpeg 600w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px"> </div> <!-- /.image-holder --> <div class="content"> <h3 class="author-name"> <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/profile/aman-azhar/"> Aman Azhar </a> </h3> <h4 class="profile-subtitle">Reporter, Washington, D.C.</h4> Aman Azhar is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who covers environmental justice for Inside Climate News with focus on Baltimore-Maryland area. He has previously worked as a broadcast journalist and multimedia producer for the BBC World Service, VOA News and other international news organizations, reporting from London, Islamabad, the United Arab Emirates and New York. He holds a graduate degree in Anthropology of Media from University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and an MA in Political Science from the University of the Punjab, and is the recipient of the Chevening scholarship from the UK government and an academic scholarship for graduate studies from the Australian government. </div> <!-- /.bio --> </div> <!-- /.post-author-bio -->