Largest investment for community air monitoring in EPA history
November 3, 2022
WASHINGTON – On November 3, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that 132 air monitoring projects in 37 states will receive $53.4 million from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan to enhance air quality monitoring in communities across the United States. The projects are focused on communities that are underserved, historically marginalized, and overburdened by pollution, supporting President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative.
The air pollution monitoring projects are made possible by more than $30 million in Inflation Reduction Act funds, which supplemented $20 million from the American Rescue Plan and enabled EPA to support 77 additional projects, more than twice the number of projects initially proposed by community-based nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, and Tribal governments. More than $4 million will be awarded to communities visited by EPA Administrator Michael Regan during his first Journey to Justice tour.
“I’ve traveled across the country and visited communities who’ve suffered from unhealthy, polluted air for far too long. I pledged to change that by prioritizing underserved communities and ensuring they have the resources they need to confront longstanding pollution challenges,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The air monitoring projects we are announcing today, which include the first EPA grants funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, will ensure dozens of overburdened communities have the tools they need to better understand air quality challenges in their neighborhoods and will help protect people from the dangers posed by air pollution.”
These grant selections further the goals of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and Executive Order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which directed that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to overburdened communities that face disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental impacts. By enhancing air monitoring and encouraging partnerships with communities, EPA is investing in efforts to better protect people’s health, particularly those in underserved communities.
The amount of the anticipated grant funding ranges from $57,000 to $500,000, which will enhance air monitoring in communities and establish important partnerships to address air quality concerns. More than half of the selected applications are from community and nonprofit organizations. Tribes are receiving 12 percent of the total funding for this competition. EPA will start the process to award the funding by the end of 2022, once the grant applicants have met all legal and administrative requirements. The grantees will have three years to spend the funds from the time EPA awards the grants.
“Ensuring Americans have clean air to breathe starts with having an effective system to measure the pollutants that exist,” said Senator Tom Carper, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, US Navy Veteran. “Fortunately, the Biden Administration is taking action to improve our nation’s outdated air quality monitoring system thanks to our historic investments in the Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan. These grants will go a long way toward enhancing air quality and improving public health, especially in low-income and historically disadvantaged communities. For too long, these communities have been overburdened by air pollution while often contributing disproportionately little to the cause. I commend Administrator Regan for his steady commitment to delivering cleaner air in communities across our nation, and I look forward to continuing the important work of advancing legislation that improves our nation’s air monitoring systems.”
The announcement today delivers on Administrator Regan’s commitment to action following his ongoing Journey to Justice tour. Following the first leg of the tour through Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas in November 2021, EPA encouraged communities to apply for the grants.
“With today’s announcement, the Biden EPA is safeguarding Americans’ right to clean air by strengthening air monitoring across the country and providing communities the localized information they need to protect public health,” said Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “These projects are especially crucial for environmental justice communities, which continue to bear the brunt of air pollution and its adverse health effects. I’m thrilled the funding we included in the American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act is providing these communities with the resources they both need and deserve, and I commend EPA for being a steadfast partner in our fight to ensure these communities will never again be left behind.”
Today’s selectees include eight projects in communities from the tour, totaling nearly $4 million from this grant program. These awards to communities from Journey to Justice and additional awards to underserved and overburdened communities reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to deliver environmental justice and the whole-of-government approach to addressing these issues in communities that are historically marginalized.
“Breathing clean air should be the birthright of every citizen in our democracy. But for too long too many haven’t been given the simple opportunity to breathe fresh air. Elected Officials to Protect America is heartened by the EPA’s wisdom to invest in monitoring the air quality in frontline communities that have been unjustly overburdened with air pollution because of systematic redlining. This is a major first step,” said Ramona Cornell du Houx, Communications Director, Elected Officials to Protect America.
In spring 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, providing EPA with a one-time supplemental appropriation of $100 million to address health outcome disparities from pollution and the COVID-19 pandemic. Half of that $100 million, was dedicated to air quality monitoring. EPA Regions began awarding nearly $22.5 million from this appropriation in 2022 as direct awards to state, tribal, and local air agencies for continuous monitoring of fine particle and other common pollutants. In addition, EPA Regions are in the process of procuring monitoring equipment using $5 million in American Rescue Plan funding to advance the EPA Regional Offices’ mobile air monitoring capacity and establish air sensor loan programs. These investments will improve EPA’s ability to support communities that need short-term monitoring and air quality information.
In July 2021, EPA announced the $20 million American Rescue Plan Enhanced Air Quality Monitoring for Communities Grant Competition. The goal of this competition was to improve air quality monitoring in and near underserved communities across the United States, support community efforts to monitor their own air quality, and promote air quality monitoring partnerships between communities and tribal, state, and local governments. EPA received more than 200 applications in response to the competition.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provides funding to EPA to deploy, integrate, support, and maintain fenceline air monitoring, screening air monitoring, national air toxics trend stations, and other air toxics and community monitoring. Specifically, the Inflation Reduction Act provides funding for grants and other activities under section 103 and section 105 of the Clean Air Act. EPA is using approximately $32.3 million of this funding to select 77 high-scoring community monitoring applications.