Six Environmental Justice Policy Fights to Watch in 2023

EPA Administrator Michael Regan arrives to an event on new national clean air standards for heavy-duty trucks near the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters on Dec. 20, 2022 in Washington, DC. Credit: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Unprecedented federal funding will soon flow to some of the nation’s communities hardest hit by climate change, industrial pollution and racist practices like redlining.

This money also presents what environmental justice advocates describe as the monumental task of ensuring those funds reach the communities most in need—namely, low-income families and communities of color that have historically borne the brunt of the nation’s environmental harms while benefiting least from environmental regulation.

Last year, lawmakers dedicated some $60 billion in federal spending for advancing environmental justice efforts when they passed the Democrats’ marquis Inflation Reduction Act—though some estimates place that number closer to $47 billion.

Still, that funding marks, by far, the single largest federal investment in the fight to close the nation’s persistent racial and socioeconomic disparities related to infrastructure, climate and the environment. As part of that historic pool of money, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Jan. 10 that the first $100 million in federal environmental justice grants will open up to community organizations, local governments and other qualified applicants in the coming weeks, with projects potentially starting as soon as October.

The disparate impacts of environmental disasters are not new, but the push to address environmental justice is finally taking place and gaining momentum. This year will begin to test whether new federal policies and massive investments focused on climate will actually benefit the low-income families and communities of color.

Front and center among the testing grounds is the Texas Gulf Coast, where many Black and brown communities are surrounded by industrial pollution and sit at the forefront of the climate crisis, said Robert Bullard, a prominent figure in the decades-old environmental justice movement and a member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, or WHEJAC. 01-19-23

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