/ Modified jul 21, 2023 7:52 p.m.

New UA environmental justice center slated to receive $10 million from EPA, DOE

The technical assistance center looks to serve as an environmental justice hub.

Old Main front with cactus Old Main on the campus of the University of Arizona.
AC Swedbergh/AZPM

In April, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a historic $177 million investment to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in partnership with the Department Energy (DOE), to develop 17 technical assistance centers and advance environmental justice in underserved communities.

That same month, the University of Arizona was selected as an Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Center (EJ TCTAC), in a network of over 160 partners confronting climate change.

This week, local leaders gathered to highlight how federal funds will ensure equitable access to clean energy resources through a new environmental center.

The UA EJ TCTAC, will primarily support communities in the west, including Arizona, California, Nevada and Hawaii and will receive at least $10 million from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to help promote community engagement towards a clean energy future.

State Senator Priya Sundareshan of District 18 said these federal funds can help people transition into a clean energy economy.

“This is a time when we're already experiencing the impacts of climate change, we have been experiencing record heat waves. We know that the drought that we're in, the long standing drought, is even more exacerbated by climate change, reducing our long term water supplies,” Sundareshan said. “Implementation of these federal laws are so critical to address climate impacts that are affecting our state and our communities.”

Sundareshan is the ranking member of the senate natural resources, energy and water committee.

Data shows people of color in Arizona are more than twice as likely to live near sources of pollution, deal with respiratory issues like asthma and suffer heat related complications.

Coalition Director at grassroots network Activate 48, Laura Dent said the UA EJ TCTAC will provide an opportunity to challenge environmental racism that contributes to health disparities.

“Latino children are 40% more likely to die from asthma and black youth are seven times more likely to die from asthma than non Hispanic white youth across the nation,” Dent said.

Dent said the IRA is expected to bring an estimated $4.1 billion of investment in large-scale clean power generation and storage to Arizona by 2030.

Political and advocacy director of Mi Familia Vota, Sheril Steinberg said the UA EJ TCTAC can help facilitate language inclusivity to reach multilingual communities most affected by climate change.

“Imagine how much our state can accomplish and how much we can achieve collectively with our communities when we’re all invited and collaborated with,” Steinberg said.

The EJ TCTAC program delivers on the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative which directs 40% of certain federal investments including clean energy, transportation, affordable and sustainable housing, to disadvantaged communities.

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