White House announces that over $29 billion in funding opportunities have already incorporated Justice40 considerations
President Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad laid the foundation for the most ambitious environmental justice agenda ever undertaken by an Administration—committing to center communities overburdened by pollution, on the frontlines of climate impacts, and marginalized by decades of underinvestment.
As part of this historic commitment to environmental justice, President Biden created the Justice40 Initiative to ensure that federal agencies deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of climate, clean energy, affordable and sustainable housing, clean water, and other investments to disadvantaged communities. In total, hundreds of federal programs, representing billions of dollars in annual investment—including programs that were funded or created in the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—are being utilized to maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities through the Justice40 Initiative.
At the start of 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration marked a year of progress on advancing environmental justice. Today, the Administration is launching a Justice40 Week of Action to highlight additional steps that are delivering real benefits to communities across the country. The Administration is kicking off the week with announcements including:
- Clean School Buses: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $500 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to begin replacing the nation’s fleet of school buses with clean, American-made, zero-emission buses, while prioritizing applications from school districts serving disadvantaged communities.
- Snapshot of Justice40 Funding Rollouts To-Date: The White House Office of Management and Budget released a snapshot of over $29 billion in new funding opportunity notifications and announcements that the Biden-Harris Administration has already rolled out to deliver on the Justice40 Initiative—with much more on the way. To put that figure in context, the President’s FY23 budget request for climate and environmental justice discretionaryfunding totals about $45 billion.
- Progress on Key Recommendations: The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a report submitted to Congress, outlining steps the Biden-Harris Administration has taken to implement recommendations from the first-ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC), including regarding the Justice40 Initiative.
- Outreach and Listening Sessions: The White House launched a Justice40 stakeholder engagement series to provide updates on how leaders at the agency, state, and community level are using the mandate of the President’s Justice40 Initiative to deliver benefits to disadvantaged communities, and for Administration officials to hear community input on opportunities to maximize these benefits.
- Environmental Justice Website: The White House launched a new website, WhiteHouse.gov/EnvironmentalJustice to provide a public platform and centralized location for the Administration’s environmental justice priorities, including the Justice40 Initiative.
These actions will be followed throughout the week by additional announcements from across the Biden-Harris Administration. Although there is much more work to do, this Administration has made historic strides to realize the vision of the Justice40 Initiative, including:
Delivering Historic and Long Overdue Investments in Disadvantaged Communities
President Biden and Vice President Harris secured $5 billion in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for a key environmental justice priority—clean school buses to protect our kids and neighborhoods from dirty diesel exhaust. Last week, Vice President Harris joined EPA Administrator Regan to announce that $500 million is now available for school districts and other eligible school bus operators and contractors to begin replacing the nation’s fleet of school buses with clean, American-made, low and zero-emission buses. New, clean school buses will produce cleaner air for students, bus drivers, school staff working near the bus loading areas, and the communities that the buses drive through each day. This investment, like other climate and clean energy-related Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments, are included in the President’s Justice40 Initiative and will prioritize applications that will replace buses serving high-need local education agencies, Tribal schools, and rural areas.
Over the last year, the Biden-Harris Administration has already made available tens-of-billions of dollars in funding opportunity notifications and announcements to deliver on the Justice40 Initiative. A new compilation from the White House Office of Management and Budget provides a snapshot of at least $29 billion of these opportunities. This initial wave of funding includes announcements on:
- Remediating and Reducing Legacy Pollution. Using funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the EPA announced $1.3 billion for various grants that will remediate and reduce pollution, such as cleaning up brownfield and Superfund sites, and reducing lead in drinking water, to benefit disadvantaged communities. The Department of the Interior (DOI) also announced $725 million for reclaiming abandoned mine lands. Funds will help communities eliminate dangerous environmental hazards and pollution caused by past coal mining, while creating good-paying jobs and providing opportunities to revitalize coal communities. Additionally, DOI announced the availability of $775 million in initial grants to states for plugging orphaned oil and gas wells to clean up these environmental and safety hazards, create good-paying union jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization in disadvantaged communities, and shut down sources of harmful methane emissions. DOI is also taking action to clean up orphaned wells on federal lands, giving priority to wells in proximity to disadvantaged communities.
- Improving Water Quality. The EPA announced more than $9.6 billion through EPA’s State Revolving Funds to accelerate progress on water infrastructure projects. This funding helps states, Tribes, and territories upgrade water infrastructure to provide safe drinking water and protect vital water resources. EPA is continuing to work with states, Tribes, and territories to ensure that disadvantaged communities fully benefit from these historic investments. EPA Administrator Regan sent a letter to Governors in December 2021encouraging them to target the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds toward disadvantaged communities and those most impacted by urgent water challenges.
- Reducing Transportation Emissions and Improving the Nation’s Transportation Infrastructure. The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced $1.47 billion to states, local government authorities, and Tribes, including $1.1 billion for the Bus and Bus Facilities and Low or No Emission grant programs. In order to access this funding, applicants are required to describe specific environmental justice activities that have been incorporated in the application and, provide evidence of strategies used in the planning process to seek out and consider the needs of those historically disadvantaged and underserved by existing transportation systems. DOT also announced over $6 billion for surface transportation projects with significant national or regional impact. The Department seeks to fund projects that benefit low-income communities, disadvantaged communities, communities underserved by affordable transportation, or overburdened communities.
- The Department of Energy (DOE) announced over $3 billion for Weatherization Assistance Program formula grants from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will reduce energy costs for low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes, while ensuring health and safety and creating jobs. DOE also announced over $3 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for competitive solicitations in areas including advanced battery manufacturing and clean energy R&D. These solicitations support achievement of the Administration’s Justice40 Initiative goals in a variety of ways, including ensuring development of environmental justice analyses, requiring applicants to describe how the technology being developed has the potential to advance equity and energy justice and revitalize the economies of coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities, or defining success metrics that include the advancement of environmental justice and economic revitalization initiatives.
- Building Community Resilience and Advancing Nature-Based Solutions. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced $1.2 billion for states, local governments, territories and Tribes, under the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program and Flood Mitigation Assistance, to help communities build resilience to natural disasters thanks to the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Biden-Harris Administration implemented a number of changes to enhance funding opportunities for Tribes and disadvantaged communities, including by changing program selection criteria and providing a larger allocation for Tribes. Additionally, the Department of Agriculture announced $1 billion in Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities to support the production and marketing of climate-smart commodities through a set of pilot projects. Projects funded through this funding opportunity will build markets and invest in America’s climate-smart farmers, ranchers, and forest owners to strengthen U.S. rural and agricultural communities, including through the meaningful inclusion of small and underserved producers and early adopters.
- Providing Healthy and Affordable Housing. The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $759.7 million for grants to supportsustainable and affordable housing in disadvantaged, Tribal, and low-socioeconomic communities, including $365 million to identify, remediate, and protect the most vulnerable and disadvantaged from the harmful effects of lead-based paints in homes.
In response to the Administration’s Justice40 efforts, philanthropic, labor and nonprofit organizations have also committed new resources to assist communities in Justice40 implementation—including the Justice40 Accelerator, a partnership between Elevate, Groundswell, The Hummingbird Firm, Partnership for Southern Equity and the Solutions Project that are working together to ensure the tools and resources are in place for frontline organizations to be prepared to access the benefits of the Justice40 Initiative.
Renewing a Focus on Environmental Justice Across the Federal Government
Today, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a report submitted to Congress that outlines how the Biden-Harris Administration has addressed recommendations from the first-ever White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC). The report fulfills a statutory obligation under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to provide a report to Congress within one year of receiving recommendations from a Federal Advisory Committee. The report is a formal response to recommendations the WHEJAC provided on the Justice40 Initiative, the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, and revisions on Executive Order 12898 Executive Order 12898 on Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.
The report submitted by CEQ to Congress contains detailed status updates from fifteen agencies to the WHEJAC’s recommendations on the Justice40 Initiative. In keeping with the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to improving transparency in government, the report illustrates how Federal agencies are advancing and implementing the President’s commitment to environmental justice right now. The report also summarizes actions that agencies are taking—informed by nearly 200 recommendations from the WHEJAC—to ensure that the benefits of key programs are reaching the communities that need them most.
Elevating the Voices of Environmental Justice Communities
The White House announced the launch of a Justice40 stakeholder engagement series that will bring Administration officials into communities to both listen to the concerns of stakeholders and identify ways to magnify the impact of Justice40 covered programs. This stakeholder engagement began with a public Justice40 update briefing with senior Administration officials highlighting leaders at the agency, state and community level who are using the mandate of the President’s Justice40 Initiative to deliver benefits to disadvantaged communities.
The White House also announced the launch of a new website, WhiteHouse.gov/EnvironmentalJustice, which provides a public platform and centralized location for information about the Administration’s environmental justice priorities and initiatives, such as the Justice40 Initiative and the White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council, as well as news and updates on environmental justice across the whole-of-government.
This week also marks the closure of the extended public comment period for the beta version of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. This geospatial mapping tool will provide important information for the Justice40 Initiative by helping agencies to identify disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. The tool was released in a beta version in order to receive feedback from the public, Tribal Nations, and Federal agencies. After hearing from environmental justice leaders, community-based organizations and allied groups, and members of the public from across the country, CEQ extended the public comment period until May 25, 2022. An updated version of the screening tool, along with an updated technical support document, will be released after the feedback from the public comment period, Tribal consultations, and meetings with Federal agencies has been reviewed. The screening tool will be continually updated as new data and research become available.