EPA Funnels Taxpayer Money to Dozens of Liberal Community Activist Groups

By Susan Jones | October 13, 2010 | 8:38 AM EDT

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has made it a priority "to expand the conversation on environmentalism and work for environmental justice," the EPA says. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The Environmental Protection Agency recently listed 76 community groups and government agencies that will share almost 2 million taxpayer dollars in the form of "environmental justice grants."

The grants – around $25,000 each -- will fund projects that help people living in poor, minority communities increase recycling, avoid heat stroke, improve indoor air quality, "reduce carbon emissions through weatherization," and participate in "green jobs" training programs.

But beyond the EPA's mission of protecting human health and the environment, the grant money will boost the coffers, and perhaps the influence, of some far-left groups.

The EPA defines “environmental justice” as the notion that minority, low income and indigenous communities deserve the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, equal access to the decision-making process and a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work as wealthier communities do.

Below are just a few of the 76 groups getting taxpayer money for various “environmental justice” projects.

-- The Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice will use some of the grant money to train eight housing authority residents, who will then teach 900 people living in multi-family housing in Hartford how to recycle.

-- The West Harlem Environmental Action group will use its environmental justice grant to "identify and address the problems posed by climate change in Northern Manhattan" and to "develop a community-based climate change readiness plan."

-- The Women’s Health & Environmental Network in Philadelphia plans to educate senior citizens on climate change and how to lessen their carbon footprint. "Many seniors do not understand climate change and how they affect it or how to protect the environment," the project summary says.

-- The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in Chicago will conduct a grassroots campaign to address coal power plant emissions. According to the group's Web site, "We seek clean power for Chicago, and want the two largest polluters (Crawford and Fisk Power Plants) in our backyard removed."

-- A St. Louis community group will receive an environmental justice grant to "protect Branch Street, the only remaining street in North St. Louis that connects to the Mississippi River, from being closed off from recreational use." The project description says Branch Street "serves to facilitate healthy activities, ecological education, and helps improve public health." As part of the project, the group will organize community bike rides "to build awareness about the value of the street."

-- A grant recipient in Appalachia -- the heart of coal country -- will teach households in Franklin County, Ky., how to reduce household greenhouse gas emissions. The project called "Lighten Up, Frankfort!" will use the book “The Low Carbon Diet” to guide households through a series of actions to reduce their household energy use. The actions include "empowering" people to "lose unwanted pounds."

-- A migrant farm workers’ group in Lafayette County, Mo., will use its grant to "increase awareness about the dangers of sun and heat exposure" and to explain the "key words and symbols related to weather advisories broadcast via television, telephone, or in person." The money also will be used to explain "the dangers of lead poisoning and poisoning prevention strategies, including how to evaluate toys and find out about toy recalls."

-- Lazos America Unida, Inc. of New Brunswick, N.J. – an advocacy group for the Mexican immigrant community -- will use its grant money to create a “lead-safe backyard gardening” program. The goal is to protect community members form the risks associated with gardening in lead contaminated soil, and reduce solid waste to local area landfills.

-- A Denver group, the Front Range Earth Force, will use its grant to "identify and mitigate air pollution and solid waste disposal issues" at a middle school that has a "disparate economic and racial/ethnic composition." According to the project summary, "Skinner Middle and elementary school students will investigate the environmental impact of practices such as idling automobiles and buses at school entrances and raise awareness about chemical and particulate pollutants and their link to respiratory diseases and eye/nose irritation. They'll also "reach across cultural and economic barriers" to develop and test ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

-- A group called DEPAVE in Portland, Oregon, will address the "social and environmental impacts of heavily paved public spaces." It aims to "re-green" two North Portland schools, by replacing paved areas with "playfields and native plantings."  According to the project description, "the proposed de-paving projects will not only restore native soils, allow for on-site rainwater infiltration and beautify urban spaces, but will also serve as a method for community building and provide educational outreach opportunities."

Since 1994, the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants program has provided more than $21 million in funding to community-based nonprofit organizations and local governments in more than 1,200 communities. The $1.9 million in fiscal 2010 grant funding announced on Oct. 5 is the largest amount awarded for environmental justice grants in more than a decade.

On Oct. 6, one day after the EPA announced the $1.9 million in environmental justice grants, it announced another $1.5 million in grant money to fund “environmental education efforts.

These grants will go to 14 organizations in 11 states and the District of Columbia to “inform the public of environmental issues and help them make educated choices on actions they can take to reduce negative environmental impacts.”

This year, some of the grant money went toward helping tribal communities set up leadership programs, letting students step outside the classroom to learn about the environment, and teaching students the importance of water quality, among other projects.