Biden-Harris Administration Announces Almost $1.2 Million for Three Community Air Pollution Monitoring Projects in Illinois

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected three organizations to receive funding to conduct community air quality monitoring in Illinois. These grants are three 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.

“For too long, underserved communities have been overburdened by air pollution,” said EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore. “Clean air is vital for building healthy, thriving communities. EPA is proud to work with our community partners to provide those in need with these critical air-monitoring resources.”

The three organizations that have been selected from across the state of Illinois are: the Ecology Action Center, Warehouse Workers’ Justice Center and Lake County Environmental Works. In total, these projects will receive $1,167,004 in funding. Illinois also received funding from grants to the Wildlife Habitat Council and Hispanic Action Association, for $460,000 and $499,922 respectively, that will go toward projects in multiple states.

“We must take appropriate steps to protect our communities from the risks of exposure to air pollution,” said Sen. Dick Durbin. “With these much-needed grants, we can conduct air quality monitoring that will provide transparency and inform additional spending and community decision making in the long run to improve residents’ quality of life. Thanks to passage of the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, we can improve the health and well-being of the people of this country, with a focus on those in overburdened communities.”

“For generations, our most toxic industries have been put next door to our state’s low-income communities and communities of color, jeopardizing the health of families and children,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth. “After years of pushing for more extensive air monitoring through my Public Health Air Quality Act, the Environmental Justice Caucus and through Inflation Reduction Act provisions, I’m proud the Biden administration and Administrator Regan are heeding my call to help address generational air pollution by strengthening the nation’s air monitoring systems. This significant infusion of federal support sends a clear message: our state’s communities deserve to breathe safe air—no matter their skin color, zip code or the size of their wallet.”

“Today, nearly half of all Americans are breathing unhealthy air,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky. “Poor air quality has disproportionately fallen on low-income communities and communities of color. This puts people at risk for bad health outcomes, from asthma to cancer and heart disease. Thanks to the passage of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan, more than $2 million is going to Illinois to monitor and improve air quality in communities that have been most impacted by pollution – helping to ensure clean air and a healthier environment for our communities and future generations.”

“This is major news for Lake County. Since 2018, I have been pushing for federal funding of air monitoring for EtO in our community. I am thrilled to announce the EPA will award Lake County Environmental Works this funding,” said Rep. Brad Schneider. “I will keep advocating for stricter federal restrictions on EtO emissions and continue the work of the bipartisan Ethylene Oxide Task Force that I founded in 2019. I look forward to working with Lake County Environmental Works to implement this critical funding and use their data to inform the work ahead.”

“I am thrilled that four projects in Illinois are receiving this necessary funding to enhance air quality monitoring thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Rep. Sean Casten. “Continued work to improve air quality is essential in the fight against the climate crisis and will allow us to continue to see improvements in health in families across our communities.”

“Clean air to breathe is the foundation for a healthy community,” said Rep. Lauren Underwood. “In Lake County, we have seen firsthand the risks that ethylene oxide (EtO) emissions can pose to our neighborhoods. Our communities deserve answers, so I am pleased to see the resources I secured coming home to Lake County today. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act, our communities in northern Illinois will now have the funding and support they need to improve our air quality and protect public health.”

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.

See the full list of applications selected for award

Background

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.

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