Lawmakers Urge Agencies to Increase Tribal Access to Environmental Justice Funds

House Democrats have called on the Biden administration to improve tribes’ access to environmental justice funding and resources under the administration’s Justice40 initiative.

House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) sent letters to multiple agencies on June 14, requesting access be given to the tribal groups under the initiative.

The Justice40 Initiative, launched by executive order in January 2021, aims to ensure that 40 percent of the overall benefits of federal investments in areas like climate and clean energy are delivered to underserved communities, including tribes and eligible Indigenous communities.

A recent addition to the Justice40 program, presented last month, is a planned improvement of the country’s power grid with the goal of integrating it with renewable power sources.

The lawmakers sent letters to the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Federal Emergency Management Agency, emphasizing the need to address barriers highlighted in a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.
The GAO report identified several obstacles tribal applicants face in accessing Justice40 programs, including stringent eligibility requirements, intense competition for program access, administrative burdens, cost-share requirements, and statutory and regulatory barriers.

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“The Biden administration’s commitment to environmental and economic justice for tribes and underserved communities is commendable,” Mr. Grijalva said, according to a press release from his committee. He went on to emphasize the importance of maintaining tribes’ voices as part of the administration’s climate change agenda planning.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the administration and my colleagues in Congress to address the concerns raised in the GAO report and ensure tribes have the necessary resources and support to thrive.”

Mr. Pallone echoed these sentiments, stressing the historical injustices faced by tribal communities. “For far too long, tribes have suffered severe and disproportionate impacts of pollution, and it is past time we right that wrong.

“Doing so begins with making sure that tribes have clear, unencumbered access to the Biden Administration’s historic Justice40 programs, which were designed specifically to improve environmental justice for communities exactly like theirs.”

The legislator further stated that the GAO report indicates that important objectives still need to be accomplished to eliminate obstacles to these initiatives.

The GAO report highlights the need for agencies to incorporate tribal input in their processes better, identify remaining barriers, and increase applicants’ access to information. The report also underscores the importance of addressing these barriers to improve project funding for critical water infrastructure, affordable housing, and legacy pollution, among other areas of investment under the Justice40 Initiative.

Mr. Grijalva and Mr. Pallone’s letters urge the EPA, USDA, and FEMA to take immediate action to enhance tribal access to these essential resources and support the administration’s goals of promoting environmental justice and equity.

The EPA, USDA, and FEMA did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’s request for comment.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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