MONTGOMERY, Ala. (November 3, 2022) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected the Southern Research Institute to receive funding to conduct community air quality monitoring in two Birmingham communities. The grant is one of 132 air monitoring projects in 37 states will receive $53.4 million from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan to enhance air quality monitoring in communities across the United States. The projects are focused on communities that are underserved, historically marginalized, and overburdened by pollution, supporting President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative.
“These grants will give communities in the Southeast the tools they need to better understand air quality challenges in their neighborhoods,” said EPA Region 4 Administrator Daniel Blackman. “EPA’s investment in ARP funding will not only advance the agency’s mobile air monitoring labs and air sensor loan programs but improve the agency’s ability to support communities in need of short-term monitoring and air quality information.”
“This EPA funding, made possible by Democrats’ American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act, will be instrumental in our efforts to combat environmental injustice in Birmingham and make our air cleaner and healthier,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell. “I welcome this much-needed investment and applaud the Biden-Harris Administration for delivering on their commitment to uplift Alabama’s underserved communities.”
This project will monitor criteria air pollutant concentrations in two underserved neighborhoods in Birmingham, Ala. as well as monitor concentrations of key volatile organic compounds including naphthalene and benzene. The goal is to provide these communities with near-real time access to data on the quality of the air that they are breathing and better understand emission patterns and exposures.
The air pollution monitoring projects are made possible by more than $30 million in Inflation Reduction Act funds, which supplemented $20 million from the American Rescue Plan and enabled EPA to support 77 additional projects, more than twice the number of projects initially proposed by community-based nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, and Tribal governments.
These grant selections further the goals of President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and Executive Order, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, which directed that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to overburdened communities that face disproportionately high and adverse health and environmental impacts. By enhancing air monitoring and encouraging partnerships with communities, EPA is investing in efforts to better protect people’s health, particularly those in underserved communities.
EPA will start the process to award the funding by the end of 2022, once the grant applicants have met all legal and administrative requirements. Grantees will have three years to spend the funds from the time EPA awards the grants.
In spring 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan, providing EPA with a one-time supplemental appropriation of $100 million to address health outcome disparities from pollution and the COVID-19 pandemic. Half of that $100 million, was dedicated to air quality monitoring. EPA Regions began awarding nearly $22.5 million from this appropriation in 2022 as direct awards to state, tribal, and local air agencies for continuous monitoring of fine particle and other common pollutants. In addition, EPA Regions are in the process of procuring monitoring equipment using $5 million in American Rescue Plan funding to advance the EPA Regional Offices’ mobile air monitoring capacity and establish air sensor loan programs. . These investments will improve EPA’s ability to support communities that need short-term monitoring and air quality information.
In July 2021, EPA announced the $20 million American Rescue Plan Enhanced Air Quality Monitoring for Communities Grant Competition. The goal of this competition was to improve air quality monitoring in and near underserved communities across the United States, support community efforts to monitor their own air quality, and promote air quality monitoring partnerships between communities and tribal, state, and local governments. EPA received more than 200 applications in response to the competition.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provides funding to EPA to deploy, integrate, support, and maintain fenceline air monitoring, screening air monitoring, national air toxics trend stations, and other air toxics and community monitoring. Specifically, the Inflation Reduction Act provides funding for grants and other activities under section 103 and section 105 of the Clean Air Act. EPA is using approximately $32.3 million of this funding to select 77 high-scoring community monitoring applications.