Small Funds Leading to Big Impacts

By Alyssa Edwards

Small funds don’t always mean small impacts. As the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grant program has shown us, oftentimes, very small funds, when put in the hands of community-based organizations (CBOs), can achieve big results. Since the program’s inception in 1994, more than 1,400 CBOs have done just that. And we are proud to announce the selection of 36 more organizations that will be joining that cohort as recipients of the 2017 Environmental Justice Small Grant funds.

One example of how small funds can make a difference is seen in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. In 2015, the tribe was awarded an EJ Small Grant in support of Project Oka (the Choctaw word for water). The goal was to protect and conserve local waters by helping residents reduce litter. The project has exceeded expectations. To date, the Choctaw Nation has collected and recycled more than 12,000 pounds of electronics and more than 1,800 tires. In addition, more than 400 students have been involved in educational and recycling activities. The tribe also created a disaster recovery plan to address disaster preparedness and adaptation strategies as a part of the project.

We know this year’s EJ Small Grants projects will add to the impressive list of community-driven solutions funded by EPA. A significant number will work to ensure clean and safe water, a strategic priority for EPA, as well as address public health concerns from contaminated land. Others will address lead exposure to create safer environments for children, environmental stewardship and conservation in under-resourced rural communities, and job training programs through green infrastructure projects.

Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership in Warren, Ohio will be working to reduce residents’ exposure to potential soil contamination from former industrial activities. Fideicomiso de la Tierra del Caño Martín Peña will work with the community of Buena Vista, Puerto Rico to manage rainfall runoff and reduce the threat of flooding – support even more necessary and timely as the island enters its long recovery from Hurricane Maria.

To expand the geographical reach of the program, during this past funding cycle, we placed a special emphasis on supporting projects in states where we did not have a significant funding history. We are excited that with this latest selection of EJ Small Grants, we will support efforts ranging from Dellslow, West Virginia to Waimea, Hawaii and many communities in between.

For a third of the EJSG recipients, this will be their first time receiving a federal grant. We are honored to support these communities as we know that an EJ Small Grant can be that much needed spark that allows organizations to access additional funding from government and the private sector as they pursue broader community goals.

Read project descriptions on the recently funded awards, as well as to learn more about EJ Small Grant projects from previous years.

In anticipation of the release of the Request for Proposals for OEJ’s Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) Cooperative Agreement program, hear directly from two CPS grantees about their best practices and success with the program!

From Small Funds to Big Dollars: Best Practices for Leveraging Federal Funds

  • Date: 11/15/2017
  • Time: 2:00pm – 3:00 pm Eastern

Register Here

And be sure to subscribe to the EJ ListServ to receive up-to-date information about funding opportunities from across the federal government, including our soon-to-be-released grants competition for 2018, upcoming workshops, and related environmental justice topics.

About the Author: Alyssa Edwards is a Program Analyst in the Office of Environmental Justice.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

25 Years of Environmental Justice at the EPA

by Danny Gogal

For a quarter of a century, the EPA has worked to address the environmental and public health concerns of minority, low-income and indigenous communities.  I have been blessed to be a part of this effort since its first steps. The Agency’s decision to establish the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ), initially called the Office of Environmental

EPA Administrator Bill Reilly speaking to students on MLK Jr Day about EJ

EPA Administrator Bill Reilly speaking to students on MLK Jr Day about EJ

Equity, stemmed from the recommendations of the EPA Environmental Equity Work Group, which was formed by Administrator Bill Reilly in 1990 to “review the evidence that racial minority and low-income communities bear a disproportionate risk burden.”

As stated in the 1992 recommendations to Administrator Reilly, “any effort to address environmental equity [justice] issues effectively must include all segments of society: the affected communities, the public at large, industry, people in policy-making positions, and all levels and branches of government.”  This understanding continues to this day. As described in the Agency’s recently released draft FY 2018-2022 EPA Strategic Plan, the Agency is committed to “collaborate more efficiently and effectively with other federal agencies, states, sovereign tribal nations, local governments, communities, and other partners and stakeholders to address existing pollution and prevent future problems.”

Throughout these past twenty-five years, I have participated in almost every aspect of the Agency’s environmental justice program.  In the earliest days, we sought to create

OEJ staff in the early 1990s

OEJ staff in the early 1990s

an EPA definition of environmental justice; to establish the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (1993), a federal advisory committee comprised of various stakeholders to give us independent advice and recommendations for providing for environmental justice; to develop financial assistance programs for vulnerable communities, such as EJ Small Grants (1993); and to initiate federal interagency coordination and collaboration on environmental justice through the Federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice, as called for under Executive Order 12898 (1994).

In subsequent years, we have developed environmental justice strategies and priorities that consistently built upon our EJ progress and achievements.  Most recently, we developed EJSCREEN, the Agency’s nationally consistent screening and mapping tool for determining areas of potential environmental justice concern.  We clarified the Agency’s principles for addressing environmental justice of tribes, indigenous peoples and others living Indian country through the EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples.  We also finalized two separate documents focused on the Action Development Process and Technical Guidance of considering environmental justice during the development of regulations.

In collaboration with our co-regulators (states and tribes), vulnerable communities, and other interested stakeholders, the Agency has made considerable progress developing the infrastructure, creating the tools and identifying the opportunities for the Agency to provide environmental and public health protection for all Americans.  At the dawning of

Charles Lee, then OEJ Associate Director, at EJ Roundtable with the tribes in Alaska

Charles Lee, then OEJ Associate Director, at EJ Roundtable with the tribes in Alaska

the next 25 years of the EPA’s Environmental Justice Program, it is my hope that future generations will be able to look back at this point in time and be able to note the substantive and meaningful steps EPA took to improve the environment and public health of our country’s most vulnerable communities.  More importantly, I hope that they will also note how the efforts of so many inside and outside of EPA during these past 25 years resulted in meaningful progress and improvements in the lives, health, environments and economies of overburdened communities throughout the United States.

About the Author: Danny Gogal is the Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Program Manager for the Office of Environmental Justice, and leads the Agency’s work on international human rights.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.