Environmental Justice

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Environmental Justice Grants

Environmental Justice (EJ) is the practice of providing environmental resources, such as clean water and emission energy sources, to underserved communities. Environmental justice grants are financial incentives that aid in driving this green development. These grants are a decision-making stake in matters of environmental policy, climate change, and related issues in these areas.

Historically, American public health issues disproportionately impact low-income or disadvantaged communities, tribal territories, and people without a voice. EJ seeks to change that – and environmental justice grants are the primary vehicle to do so.

Moreover, they can help defray the cost of funding significant development projects, whether in the energy sector, housing, or any other industry. Many developers aren’t sure how to access these benefits. Questions include:

  • What determines eligibility for funding opportunities?

  • Are grants available only to nonprofit organizations?

  • How can you find technical assistance to find appropriate EJ grants in America?

What are Environmental Justice Grants

EJ grants are the financial vehicles that drive development in underserved communities. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed under the Biden Administration, allowed for the creation of several different EJ grants. These include a number of different initiatives, including:

  • The Environmental and Climate Justice (ECJ) Program: This grant provides “funding for financial and technical assistance to carry out environmental and climate justice activities to benefit underserved and overburdened communities.”

  • The Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking (EJ TCGM) Program: This program is designed to pick appropriate grantmakers to oversee the grant process.

  • The Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving (EJCPS) Cooperative Agreement Program: Here, the goal is to help communities forge collaborative partnerships with the goal of addressing local environmental issues.

  • The Environmental Justice Government-to-Government (EJG2G) Program: “The EJG2G program provides funding to governmental entities at the state, local, territorial and tribal level” to create or support government activities that mitigate environmental or public health harms.

  • The Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTAC) Program: In order to train people who work in the EJ field, this program will establish centers across the nation for workforce development and support.

  • The Environmental Justice Small Grants Program: The small grants program empowers communities to write and seek grants to help address commonly ignored local environmental issues.

Other funding opportunities related to environmental justice include brownfields grants to help developers make use of lands compromised by brownfields activities (e.g. gas stations or dry cleaners); workforce training and development; urban waters; Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grants; and others.

You can find a full list of possible funding types and additional resources on the EPA’s EJ grant web page.


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Why Environmental Justice?

An environmental justice grant is, generally, any grant dedicated toward providing environmental solutions to communities who need them. This can apply to initiatives as wide-ranging as:

  • Clean energy for Black, brown, or indigenous communities

  • Healthy, organic food programs for underserved school districts

  • Emissions reduction in disadvantaged communities (which are often located near power plants and other polluting structures)

  • Clean drinking water solutions in communities currently without access to un-polluted water through the city water supply system

These are, of course, merely a few examples of how applicants for EJ grants may use the funding they receive.

Overall, the goal is to help combat environmental racism – the stark reality that the history of America is one where people of color bear the brunt of white activities that cause environmental harms.  

The idea is not that outside bodies will come in and clean up or fix disadvantaged communities, but rather that the money will allow them to design initiatives that address their concerns on their own terms. By nature of being disadvantaged, such communities often lack the means to follow through on the many good climate justice and community engagement ideas that already exist within them.

With the right funding opportunities, those ideas finally have a chance to see the light. EJ grants help return decision-making on environmental issues to the community members affected by them, at the same time increasing climate resilience and capacity building in such areas.

Funding Opportunities and the Inflation Reduction Act

Following the passage of the IRA, Congress appropriated $2.8 million in grantmaking money to distribute to eligible applicants, from community-based organizations to land developers. They also set aside $200 million for technical assistance with applicable grants programs.

Other types of grant money – either traditionally given over the years or specifically set aside through the IRA – may have a disadvantaged community component. However, the IRA’s environmental justice grants are unique in that every dollar is earmarked for only those communities.

Who Regulates the Environmental Justice Grant Program?

The Environmental Protection Agency oversees environmental justice grants as established through the IRA, in partnership with the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), established in 2022 within the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. 

Who Do EJ Grants Help?

Although the Environmental and Climate Justice (ECJ) program and those like it are still in their infancy, we have seen successful models of what this might look like elsewhere. For instance, California’s Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) Program launched in 2017 and has already gone through four successful rounds of funding.

TCC’s raison d’être is that it “empowers the communities most impacted by pollution to choose their own goals, strategies, and projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution.” This is exactly the sort of ongoing initiative that disadvantaged communities need to see in order to heal themselves from within by addressing harms from without.

The main bodies grants can help include:

Tribal Governments

Environmental justice grants may contribute to tribal government goals such as clean water, public health, and ecological problem-solving. Grantees from successful grant applications can use the money to fund projects already in existence or to focus on new ideas.

Disadvantaged Communities

Disadvantaged communities are another main recipient of environmental justice grants. The money received may be used to address pollution, emissions, clean energy, water, food, green spaces, and other elements of the surrounding environment that make the difference between healthy and unhealthy living.

Land Developers

Environmental justice grants also offer opportunity to developers. Those who can find the right grants can both enjoy tax incentives and grant funding and help communities in need of clean energy developments, safe housing, access to amenities, and more.

How to Locate EJ Grants

Understanding how important environmental justice issues are and wrapping them into your development model are two different prospects. You need a way to seek out as much information as possible during this liminal time.

Transect provides basic EJ grant information, but not an exhaustive list. Other tools, such as energy community layers, identify development incentives that support development project that benefit our climate and communities.

To learn more about Transect, sign up for a demo today.

Free Permitting Checklist

Practical Tips to Avoid Environmental Risk on all Your Projects

Download our environmental permitting checklist to get a step-by-step list of ways to protect your project from the 9 most common environmental risks.

Download Your Checklist