Michigan awards $32 million to clean up neighborhoods harmed by environmental injustice - TAI News
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Young’s Environmental Cleanup Inc. workers begin the cleanup of a Wolverine World Wide historic dumpsite on MDOT property in Belmont, Michigan, on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. Testing has found unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals from a decades-old tannery waste dump site in western Michigan in private residential drinking water wells in an expanded area. (Neil Blake /The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

Michigan is pledging a total of $32 million to clean up local neighborhoods that have been disproportionately affected by environmental inequity.

According to two separate announcements made this month by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, community-based organizations across Michigan can now apply to receive funding for projects intended to improve the health of residents.

EGLE Director Phil Roos said in a statement that the need to address environmental and public health challenges is evident in communities of color and low-income areas, which have been disproportionately impacted by pollution “without the financial resources to adequately address harmful impacts.” According to a 2019 report by the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, people living in neighborhoods affected by environmental injustice are more susceptible to serious health conditions such as asthma, cancer and heart disease than those living elsewhere.

The state’s first Environmental Justice Impact Grant program is administered by EGLE’s Office of the Environmental Justice Public Advocate using $20 million of the department’s 2024 fiscal year budget.

Eligible applicants, which include federally recognized tribes, community-based nonprofits, local governments, schools and child care centers are eligible to receive up to $500,000. Examples of funding proposals include pollution monitoring, blight removal, contamination cleanup, and indoor air quality enhancements in schools and child care centers. The application can be found on the EGLE website, and the deadline to apply is July 15.

Gilchrist on May 16 shared the details of two additional state programs worth a combined $12 million — the Climate Justice Challenge and the MI Healthy Climate Justice40 Technical Assistance Program — at the MI Healthy Climate Conference, an annual event that brings together policymakers and activists to discuss ways in which the state can meet its environmental goals. The money for these programs comes from the state’s economic development fund.

The Climate Justice Challenge is intended to address resource and funding barriers that have prevented smaller organizations from receiving federal grants for projects combating climate change, while the Justice40 technical assistance program will train community groups over the course of a year on how to utilize climate-related funding in disadvantaged areas allocated under the federal Justice40 Initiative launched in an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in 2021. Those interested in applying to the Climate Justice Challenge can submit an application online before July 1. Applications for the technical assistance program are expected to open soon.

“Local organizations like community action agencies, tribal governments, local governments, and civic organizations are leading the fight against climate change and making a difference for Michiganders in every corner of our state,” Gilchrist said. “The state of Michigan is committed to helping these organizations access the resources they need to drive even greater change on the ground.”

These latest initiatives fall in line with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s environmental agenda, part of which includes a goal for the state to become 100% carbon neutral by 2050.

Regina Strong, the head of EGLE’s environmental justice office, stressed the need to invest in disadvantaged communities that have historically faced inequity in resource allocation and other areas as they work to build clean energy infrastructure.

“By layering resources like the Environmental Justice Impact Grants and the Climate Justice Challenge that are designed to address issues in Environmental Justice communities, we can have a lasting impact on the people in Michigan who most need it and that is an important element of advancing equity,” Strong said.

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