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The EPA is offering $100 million in environmental justice grants. Here’s what you need to know.

The Union Pacific railyard at 29th and Grove.
Celia Hack
A chemical spill at a railyard in Wichita happened decades ago, but is still impacting a neighborhood's groundwater today.

Nonprofits, governments or a combination of both can apply for them. 

Last fall, some Wichita residents grew angry after learning of groundwater contamination in neighborhoods northeast of downtown, most of which were primarily Black.

“For me, this is an environmental injustice,” former City Council member LaVonta Williams said at a city news conference last October. “And I’m hoping we get this solved as soon as possible.”

Environmental justice is the idea that no group of people should disproportionately bear environmental burdens like pollution, no matter their demographic, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Now, the EPA is making $100 million in environmental justice grants available to help communities burdened by pollution across the country. Many of the grants are part of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.

Brandon Johnson is a Wichita City Council member representing the district where much of the groundwater contamination is located.

“I do intend to explore it, what it means, and how it could potentially be of use,” Johnson wrote in an email of the grant opportunities. “I am concerned about the number of contamination sites, and I am going to work toward a plan to address it the best we can.”

Kiah Duggins is a Wichita native who advocated for the EPA to act on the contaminated groundwater in minority neighborhoods. That’s how she learned about the grant opportunities.

“People are interested in applying for them, but are just a little confused about the process,” Duggins said.

KMUW spoke with representatives from the EPA’s Region 7, which includes Kansas, to explain the available grants and how to apply for them.

What grants are available for the community?

The EPA’s Environmental Justice funding page lists more than a dozen funding opportunities. But Monica Espinosa, the EPA Region 7 Environmental Justice Program Coordinator, said that two are most relevant to the Wichita community:

What is the EJCPS grant?

This grant provides financial assistance to community-based nonprofits who are working to address local environmental or public health issues.

It can help those nonprofits build partnerships with other groups like local businesses, local government, medical service providers and more. Applications are due April 14th.

The grant can be used for a broad variety of environmental justice issues, including:

  • Water quality and sampling
  • Air quality and asthma 
  • Facilitating engagement of marginalized communities in Local, State and Federal public processes

“This is the first time in my over 23 years of working at EPA that we are allowing implementation projects,” Espinosa said. “That means instead of just having a grant to maybe raise awareness about an issue like radon or lead, these funds can actually go towards remediation and cleanup of those issues. … That is a huge change.”

The grant awards range from $150,000 to $500,000 each.

Who can apply for the EJCPS grant? 

Community-based nonprofits. That’s defined as a public or private nonprofit organization that supports and/or represents a community or certain populations within it.

What is the EJG2G grant?

This program is meant to provide funds to state, local and tribal governments to decrease environmental or public health impacts in communities “burdened by environmental harms,” according to the EPA.

This grant should improve environmental and/or public health and build community partnerships. It’s due April 14th.

The grant can be used for a broad variety of environmental justice issues, including water quality monitoring. The grant addresses largely the same issues as the EJCPS grant.

Eligible project activities can include:

  • Public education 
  • Installation of air or water filtration systems
  • Mitigation of pollution 

The grant awards are up to $1 million each.

Who can apply for the EJG2G grant? 

State, tribal or local governments in partnership with a community-based nonprofit organization. The partnership must be documented with a signed letter of commitment.

Are there any other resources available? 


The EPA is currently in the process of assigning each region of the country an Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Program. This program will be hosted by universities, colleges, nonprofits or tribal governments.

Communities with environmental justice concerns can seek support from these technical assistance centers. The centers will give training on writing grant proposals and navigating federal systems. They will also provide guidance on community engagement, meeting facilitation and translation services for those who don’t speak English.

The other pot of money that will soon become available is from the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking Program. In this program, the federal government will select approximately 11 organizations around the nation to act as local grantmakers that will distribute about $550 million for environmental justice projects.

The program’s goal is to make it easier for communities struggling with pollution or other environmental challenges to access funding by applying to a local grantmaker instead of the federal government.

Organizations that can act as grantmakers include:

  • Community-based nonprofits
  • Partnerships between an institution of higher education and a community-based nonprofit 
  • Partnerships between a tribal government and a community-based nonprofit 

Applications to be a local grantmaker are open until May 31st.

Celia Hack is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Beacon covering local government and as a freelancer for The Shawnee Mission Post and the Kansas Leadership Center’s The Journal. She is originally from Westwood, Kansas, but Wichita is her home now.