Environmental Justice : EPA awards over $225,000 to advance environmental justice in Arizona

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The funding, awarded through EPA’s national Environmental Justice Small Grants program, will support underserved communities across Arizona in their efforts to address local environmental and public health issues.

"Our goal is to achieve positive impacts through the meaningful involvement and fair treatment of the communities we serve, providing them the resources to advance environmental justice," said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman.

The projects cover a wide array of environmental justice issues including extreme heat and access to cooling spaces, food insecurity, energy poverty, air quality, green jobs opportunities and increasing water access. Organizations in Arizona receiving grants include:

Native Renewables, a non-profit organization serving communities on the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe, will research the impact that off-grid, solar refrigeration systems can have on transportation habits and air emissions in remote, tribal communities. They will install solar-powered cold food storage equipment in 10 family homes, gather emissions and transportation data, and educate community members on solar system maintenance and the intersection of food, energy, transportation, and emissions.

Retail Arts, Innovation & Livability Community Development Corporation
, through their Community Asset Resource Enterprise (CARE) Resilience Hub, will work on urban heat intervention in Mesa, AZ, focusing on the Water Tower Improvement district, an underserved neighborhood battling intense heat and gentrification. The project will assess hotspots in the neighborhood and then, through a Community Guardian Program, provide shade trees and other cooling pilot projects. The project will also co-empower the community to build local capacity through 25 summer trainings or workshops to advocate for environmental justice solutions. Lastly, a K-12 Summer Emergency Program will educate 250 youth on heat safety.

Purpose Focused Alternative Learning Corporation
is developing a certified Green Workforce specialized in solar technology to co-empower underserved communities on Western Navajo Nation. The Navajo Green Job Development Project will provide training for solar technicians and off-grid solar water furnace installers with the expected outcome of adopting renewable energy solutions and access to electricity and potable water among the Navajo communities such as the Bodaway Gap.

“These EJ funds have allowed our community to leverage and network in building solar vendor relationships and recruiting more Navajos to be trained as Solar Navajo Technicians,” said JoAnn Armenta, CEO Purpose Focused Alternative Learning. “We have also developed a viable coalition with the Navajo community to educate and deploy clean energy solutions for our Navajo Nation.”

The American Rescue Plan (ARP), signed into law in March 2021, provided over 60 percent of the funding for these projects being funded across the nation. Awards made with the ARP focus on the unequal impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color, low-income communities, and other vulnerable populations.