Supporting Environmental Justice: Federal Initiatives and Opportunities for Maryland

By Rianne Nickerson

In July, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Coppin State University in Baltimore to announce a $20 billion competition to advance a clean energy financing network, with the aim to substantially reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. She spoke of underserved communities, a term that holds weight in Maryland having been defined and enshrined into law in the Climate Solutions Now Act. At the federal level, the Biden-Harris administration has taken action to prioritize environmental justice and create opportunities, directing funding and resources to those communities long burdened by environmental inequities. New policies are being adopted and grant programs are emerging to address injustice and put us on a path to a clean energy transition that is inclusive and equitable.

Under the Justice40 Initiative and the Inflation Reduction Act, the Federal Government and federal agencies have created several grant opportunities that local governments, organizations, communities, and tribes can take advantage of to create Environmental Justice programs or initiatives that help overburdened, underserved, and disadvantaged communities. The Environmental Protection Agency has created the Climate and Environmental Justice Block Grants to provide $3 billion in competitive, 3-year grants to states, tribes, municipalities, and community-based nonprofit organizations for financial and technical assistance to address clean air and climate pollution in disadvantaged communities.

The EPA has also created the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking Program. This program is a competition to select Grantmakers to reduce the barriers to the federal grant application process that communities face and to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the awards process for environmental justice grants. Alongside the Grantmaking Program, the EPA has created the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers Program. This program establishes technical assistance centers providing technical assistance, training, and related support to communities with environmental justice concerns. These technical assistance centers will ensure that deserving projects receive funding and project outcomes are successful for local communities.

These initiatives by federal entities are an important step in the fight for environmental justice. By understanding what options are available, Maryland’s local governments and community organizations can use these programs to directly address climate and pollution challenges, benefiting communities across the state. To that end, Maryland LCV Education Fund met with state and local government officials in August alongside the Maryland Association of Counties annual conference to share this packet of information about these environmental justice grant opportunities and how they fit into the efforts to map and understand environmental justice needs in Maryland: check it out here.