The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it will direct an additional $50 million to strengthen the monitoring of air pollution and improve air quality for communities of color and “environmental justice communities.”
“Communities of color and environmental justice communities have been impacted by a number of systemic policy decisions that have been made,” Regan said.
“Whether it be transportation, looking at roads and highways that cut through the heart of many of these communities, whether you look at failed drinking water systems … or whether you look at facilities that spew pollution in closer proximity than other communities.”
The EPA announced it will start a grant competition this year for proposals on monitoring air quality in affected communities.
Although there is no timeline for when these resources will be distributed, Regan said the agency is working as quickly as possible to get money to the hardest-hit communities.
“We’re laser-focused on how we can get these precious resources to those who need it the most,” he said, according to CNN.
“And I’m confident that we have the staff expertise, we have the existing relationships, and we’re going to leverage our state and tribal partnerships to get the job done.”
This money brings to $100 million the total amount that Congress has allocated to the EPA as part of the American Rescue Plan for projects targeting health disparities.
“This funding is a much-needed down payment on getting state and local clean air agencies the resources they need to advance the equitable protection of healthy air for all,” Miles Keogh, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said in a news release.
The EPA announced last month that $50 million would address “disproportionate environmental or public health harms and risks” in underserved communities, according to CNN.
Over 40 percent of Americans live in areas with unhealthy air quality, which could lead to asthma issues and lung cancer, according to the American Lung Association.
The association found that people of color are most affected by poor air quality and are “61 percent more likely than white people to live in a county with a failing grade for at least one pollutant.”
A variety of sources contribute to poor air quality, including power plants, vehicles and industrial facilities.
Research from Harvard University also suggests a connection between long-term air pollution and higher death rates from COVID-19, according to CNN.
“Our communities of color and low-income communities have been disproportionately impacted for generations, and COVID-19 exacerbated the health disparities that we have seen or been seen in these communities,” Regan told the outlet.
“If we can properly monitor the air quality in these communities, we begin to alleviate many of the stressors that put these communities at an uncompetitive advantage when the pandemic first hit.”
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