House GOP members interrogate Biden administration efforts to address environmental racism


Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are requesting the EPA provide information so they can ensure that a grant program isn’t ‘a $100 million slush fund for far-left organizations.’

Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability on Monday sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan requesting information on recently launched environmental justice grant programs funded in part by the Inflation Reduction Act.

The signatories, committee Chair James Comer of Kentucky and Rep. Pat Fallon of Texas, claim that grantees under the programs do not clearly define their concerns or "articulate intended results." They say, "Oversight mechanisms in these programs are lacking, and adequate metrics for applicants must be imposed to avoid funneling money into vague projects that will enable a $100 million slush fund for far-left organizations."

On Jan. 10, the EPA announced the availability of grants totaling $100 million for environmental justice. This includes the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving program, which will award $30 million to approximately 80 community-based nonprofit organizations and affiliates working on projects related to public health and local environmental issues. Another $70 million will be awarded through the Environmental Justice Government-to-Government program as approximately 70 grants to state and local governments working on similar issues.

"This funding, made possible through President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, marks the largest amount of environmental justice grant funding ever offered by the Agency," the agency noted.

In their letter, Comer and Fallon requested "documents, information, and a staff-level briefing" from the EPA on the two grant programs, said that the agency has seen its budgetary resources increase from 2021 to 2022, and that the Inflation Reduction Act "did nothing to reduce inflationary pressure on everyday Americans."

Research has shown that people of color and low-income people are disproportionately affected by environmental issues that have long-term negative effects on health. Decades of systemically racist policies have put these communities at risk by forcing them to live near environmental hazards, with examples cited by the World Economic Forum such as "sewage works, mines, landfills, power stations, major roads and emitters of airborne particulate matter."

The Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Aug. 16, 2022, after passing Congress with only Democratic votes, contains $369 billion allocated for dealing with issues related to climate change and energy security.

Republicans have attacked the new law as public polling showed widespread support for its provisions when it passed.

The grant program is part of the Biden administration's "Justice40" initiative, which is intended to direct 40% of federal spending to communities that have been affected by the legacy of environmental racism. Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office instructing the federal government to focus on the issue.

Additionally, the EPA in September formed the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, also funded by the Inflation Reduction Act and tasked with including principles of equity, environmental justice, and civil rights in policies implemented by the agency.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.