US government invests 1.8 billion to fight pollution in poor communities

The US government will make around 1.8 billion euros available to communities, states and tribes to combat pollution and develop clean energy in disadvantaged areas.

The investment is seen as the largest ever in environmental justice issues.

The administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan, was quoted by the international press as saying that the program promises to "transform disadvantaged and overcrowded areas into healthy, resilient and prosperous communities for current and future generations".

The program, funded by the sweeping climate law signed last year by President Joe Biden, is aimed at poor communities "that have been neglected and forgotten" and that struggle to gain access to federal funding, he explained.

The climate law authorized the channeling of 3 billion dollars (around 2.7 billion euros) to disadvantaged communities affected by pollution, and 916 million euros have already been allocated.

Regan, the first black man to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), made environmental justice a priority and visited a series of poor communities in the south, Appalachia and Alaska, on a trip he called the "Journey of Justice".

Joe Biden has underscored his commitment to environmental justice, including by creating an Office of Environmental Justice in the White House in April.

The grant program, which will be available immediately, will be overseen by APA's Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights unit, which Regan created last year.

The grants are aimed at non-profit organizations and other local groups, which will partner with cities, states, tribes or universities to increase climate resilience and adaptation, mitigate urban "heat islands" and forest fires, monitor air and water pollution, reduce indoor air toxics and boost zero-emission transport, such as bicycles and electric vehicles.

Around 150 projects are expected to receive subsidies of between 10 and 20 million dollars (between nine and 18 million euros) each, the authorities said.

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