The Gowanus Canal surrounded by run-down buildings and trees.

New EPA Agency Prioritizes Environmental Justice

Climate change and pollution are impacting everyone across the world. However, similar to most challenges in the U.S., it disproportionately hurts communities of color. Advocates call this phenomenon environmental racism.

This impact on disadvantaged communities occurs not merely by chance — it is the result of economic factors derived from the decades-long negligence of the U.S. government and other leaders. In an effort to fix these issues, the EPA recently launched the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights (OEJECR).

This new office is dedicated to delivering grant money and other forms of support to communities of color in the U.S. that have been disproportionately impacted by pollution and climate change.

New Commitments From the EPA

The OEJECR launched with more than 200 workers in 10 regions across the U.S. and will be led by an administrator to be confirmed by the Senate. One of the office’s biggest priorities is to guide the distribution of $3 billion in grants for climate justice.

The office was established as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act, which will help fund a variety of environmental justice programs. These overdue advances in climate justice stem from the Justice40 Initiative, a program that the Biden administration created as a part of its climate agenda.

The program compels government agencies to allocate 40% or more of its benefits to communities that have been harmed by pollution. In addition to distributing grants, the office will aid underserved communities, enforce civil rights laws and help find solutions for environmental issues.

Robert F. Smith’s Support of Racial Equity

Even though the OEJECR is a solid step forward to help fix environmental racism, it will not bring about immediate change. That’s why it’s important for the government and private citizens to take a multi-faceted approach to fix this issue.

Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners (Vista) Robert F. Smith is a long-time philanthropist who is dedicated to elevating the human spirit. Throughout his almost four-decade career, Smith has donated a vast amount of time and resources toward racial equality efforts.

In 2021, Smith helped to establish the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). This Initiative was inspired by the principles of The 2% Solution to address racial disparities throughout the U.S. The Initiative specifically focuses on six Southern communities that are home to more than half of the African American population.

By focusing on these communities, the Initiative can optimize targeted investments and better track the progress and success of each project. The money raised by the Initiative and its partners is used to expand entrepreneurship, modernize local banking, support education and increase internet access in these communities and ultimately across the country.

Learn more about Southern Communities Initiative and how it’s helping to bridge racial equality.