Largest investment for community air monitoring in EPA history funded by President Biden’s Climate and Economic Plans
BOSTON (November 3, 2022) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected five Massachusetts organizations to receive $2,157,520 in grants to conduct community air quality monitoring in multiple communities in the Commonwealth. The grants are among 132 air monitoring projects in 37 states which 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.
“I’ve traveled across the country and visited communities who’ve suffered from unhealthy, polluted air for far too long. I pledged to change that by prioritizing underserved communities and ensuring they have the resources they need to confront longstanding pollution challenges,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The air monitoring projects we are announcing today, which include the first EPA grants funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, will ensure dozens of overburdened communities have the tools they need to better understand air quality challenges in their neighborhoods and will help protect people from the dangers posed by air pollution.”
“With these new air quality monitoring grants, EPA is delivering significant funding in Massachusetts to improve air quality monitoring in and near underserved communities, support community efforts to monitor their own air quality, and promote air quality partnerships between communities and tribal, state, and local governments,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. “Thanks to the Biden Administration, this work will make a real difference leading to cleaner and healthier air for people in many of Massachusetts’ most vulnerable and overburdened communities.”
The EPA funding in Massachusetts consists of five grants. Under the first grant, Health Resources in Action will receive $500,000 to develop and advance a Massachusetts Healthy Air Network (MHAN) which will monitoring and build capacity for resilient communities, and will focus primarily on Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, and/or Worcester. The MHAN will work at the community‐level to improve environmental health conditions in multiple Mass. communities by expanding air quality monitoring, supporting a learning community, building a statewide universal platform, and disseminating results. MHAN will prioritize three EJ communities’ where residents experience disproportionate challenges related to environmental exposures, racial and health disparities, socioeconomic factors, sources of pollution, and are most burdened by asthma, COVID‐19, air toxic cancer risk, and other chronic health conditions related to high levels of PM2.5 (fine particle pollution) and ozone.
Under the second grant, the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Inc. will receive $300,131. Using ten stationary continuous air monitors and five mobile monitors, BEAT will monitor for fine particle pollution (both PM2.5 and PM10), and nitrogen oxides throughout key locations in Pittsfield, Mass. including environmental justice neighborhoods, near point sources of pollution and in “control” locations away from these centers. Our air quality monitoring will be supplemented by a survey of community health conditions, conducted during the monitoring period, to look for correlating increases or decreases in severity.
Under the third grant, the Mystic River Watershed Association Inc. (MyRWA) will receive $499,979. The goal of this project is to improve air quality and health in communities in the watershed that are most burdened by transportation-related air pollution and disease (primarily Charlestown, East Boston, Everett, and Malden). By deploying dense networks of air pollution monitors at community-identified locations in each of four cities, MyRWA will provide actionable data and information to increase community awareness, inform decision-making around transportation infrastructure, and reduce exposures to harmful transportation-related particulate air pollutants including PM10, PM2.5, and ultrafine particles. Through a 12-member Community Advisory Board and extensive surveying and outreach, the team will build capacity among residents that have been disproportionately impacted by poor air quality.
Under the fourth grant, the City of New Bedford will receive $391,821.97 to monitor air quality using monitors at 20 locations throughout and within the City, where approximately 78% of its residents live in Environmental Justice block groups. This project will identify disparities relative to health and corresponding air quality among EJ communities to inform public policy and realize equitable health outcomes.
Under the fifth grant, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) will receive $465,589 to expand indoor and outdoor air monitoring opportunities for all Berkshire County residents, especially the County’s most vulnerable populations in targeted areas of Adams, Cheshire, Dalton, Great Barrington, Hinsdale, Lee, Lenox, North Adams, Pittsfield, and Williamstown. BRPC, with its project partners, will engage all communities in Berkshire County containing EJ populations to obtain outdoor air sensors, equitably and collaboratively site them, build capacity for ongoing community air quality monitoring, and disseminate indoor air sensors to low-income households making energy efficiency upgrades. Indoor and outdoor sensor deployment will be accompanied by extensive community outreach and municipalities and local groups will utilize data to guide regional planning initiatives.
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.
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.
What They Are Saying
“Historically marginalized and underserved communities have borne the brunt of environmental and health disparities for far too long,” said Senator Edward J. Markey. “We can’t manage what we don’t measure—which is why I introduced the Environmental Justice Air Quality Monitoring Act. These air monitoring grants will ensure that folks across the state, from New Bedford to Great Barrington, will be able to breathe cleaner, healthier air. I look forward to seeing this critical funding go to work in our environmental justice communities to advance health equity across Massachusetts.”
“This $2.1 million grant for Massachusetts is fantastic news,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan, community organizations, state and local governments, and Tribal governments across the Commonwealth will gain resources to improve air quality for our families and children.”
“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, multiple communities in Berkshire County will have the necessary funds to monitor indoor and outdoor air pollutants and build a plan utilizing the data to combat it,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means. “When the air we breathe is cleaner, our bodies are healthier, and so is the environment around us.”
“The climate crisis was a top priority as we crafted the American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act, and now these new laws are making a real difference in the Fifth District,” said Congresswoman and Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark. “With this grant, the Mystic River Watershed Association will help our community mitigate pollution and equitably improve air quality. I’m proud to call them partners in the fight for environmental justice and eager to see our mutual goal for a stronger, more sustainable future advanced using these new federal resources.”
“I proudly voted for the Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan to invest in Third District communities like Lowell and Lawrence that have been disproportionately affected by the climate crisis,” said Congresswoman Lori Trahan. “Enhancing our air quality monitoring and providing real-time air quality data is a critical step in understanding environmental disparities here in Massachusetts. With this federal funding secured for the Massachusetts Healthy Air Network, we will have better data that will inform smarter climate solutions.”
“Air quality affects every facet of life, from our health to our economy. Studies have shown that for every dollar we invest in clean air, we get about thirty in return,” said Congressman Seth Moulton. “That’s why grants like this one from the EPA are so important. This funding will help Massachusetts to monitor air quality, which in turn will help everyone– especially environmental justice communities that typically have health outcome disparities and higher prevalence of asthma.”