HELENA, MT – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to receive funding to conduct community air quality monitoring in 183 locations across Montana. The grant is one of 132 air monitoring projects in 37 states that 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.
“This funding will help address air quality information gaps in and near underserved and vulnerable communities across the state of Montana, providing community members with more data about the air they breathe” said EPA Regional Administrator, KC Becker. “The data this project produces will help Montana communities more closely evaluate potential pollution concerns and opportunities to address them.”
Today’s announcement includes $452,871 in funding for MDEQ to expand its current air quality network for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) across the state, including in communities where air quality information is currently unavailable. As the duration and severity of wildfires increases and the number of smoke-impacted days rises, the air monitors installed because of this grant will help provide information on air quality and resulting community health impacts to Montanans across the state.
“Montana DEQ is thrilled to be chosen as an award recipient,” said Montana DEQ Director Chris Dorrington. “Wildfire smoke has become increasingly prevalent in Montana and giving citizens access to accurate air quality information is critical so they can determine how to reduce exposure. This funding will help DEQ provide better air quality data to rural and underserved communities across the state.”
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.