In full transparency, the following is a press release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.
BOSTON — Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell led a coalition of eight attorneys general calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that the benefits of EPA’s Environmental and Climate Justice (ECJ) Block Grant Program reach underserved communities as intended under the historic Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
“For far too long, unjust policy decisions have resulted in dirtier air and water and significant underinvestment in our Black and brown, and low-income communities,” AG Campbell said. “My office is committed to ensuring that the communities that have been most impacted by these injustices are directly and meaningfully involved in the work to remedy them.”
EPA’s ECJ program will provide $3 billion in funding to community-based organizations, local government agencies, institutions of higher education, and Tribes for projects aimed at reducing pollution and promoting clean energy in disadvantaged communities– a priority of AG Campbell’s Environmental Protection Division. The program is one of the many programs geared toward advancing environmental justice under the IRA, which makes the nation’s largest ever investments in tackling climate change.
In comments filed in response to EPA’s request for public information, the coalition applauds EPA’s commitment to efficiently and equitably implementing its ECJ program. If done correctly, the comments contend, the IRA and ECJ program have the potential to make a difference in underserved communities in Massachusetts and nationwide. But EPA must meaningfully engage communities and design its ECJ program to ensure its funding advances community priorities. To that end, the comments urge EPA to provide clear standards and definitions; implement equity and value community in grant scoring procedures; and prioritize the funding and allocation of resources directly to community-based organizations.
Specifically, the comments recommend that EPA:
· Provide a clear definition of the term disadvantaged community” for purposes of the grant program.
· Utilize quantitative factors by which disadvantaged communities can be measured to identify and support the communities most disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis and environmental harms.
· Take proactive steps to incorporate equity into its grant proposals, applications, and evaluation and scoring processes.
· Prioritize and provide higher value to an applicant’s connection to the community and its history working with disadvantaged and underserved communities.
· Evaluate all grant applicants based on the same criteria and standards.
· Prioritize projects that provide clear and specific details on how and when community engagement and public participation will occur.
· Collect feedback directly from impacted community members to track and measure relevant program progress and outcomes to ensure the benefits of the project are directly reaching those who need them the most.
In her inaugural address earlier this year, this year, AG Campbell pledged to create safer and healthier communities across Massachusetts by fighting to protect the environment and ensuring we have clean air, water and land for those marginalized communities who have been disproportionately and directly impacted by environmental injustices. These comments follow comments led and filed by the Massachusetts AG’s Office late last year urging the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Department of Treasury to center equity and environmental justice in implementing the IRA’s historic climate, clean energy, and labor benefits.
These comments were led by AG Campbell and joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
In Massachusetts, this matter was handled by Environmental Technical Advisor Marcus Holmes, with assistance from Paralegal Gabrielle Allmendinger, Managing Administrative Assistant Carly Pusateri, and Deputy Chief Turner Smith, of the AG’s Energy and Environment Bureau.