State to Work Closely with WE ACT to Build Capacity for Community-Based Environmental Justice Organizations
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc., (WE ACT) has been chosen as the administrator for New York's Environmental Justice Capacity Building Grant Program and awarded $1 million to support and grow environmental justice organizations across the state. In cooperation with DEC, WE ACT will use their expertise to help community-based groups develop administrative, technical, and programmatic capacity and expand their services protecting public health and the environment.
"Achieving environmental justice for New Yorkers is a critical piece of Governor Cuomo's nation-leading efforts to reduce climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions, transition to clean energy sources, and protect the environment while bolstering the state's economy," said Commissioner Seggos. "WE ACT has an exemplary record of pursuing environmental justice and empowering residents to participate in environmental decision-making. I have complete confidence that in this new role WE ACT will support DEC's ongoing efforts to help community-based organizations taking on environmental justice challenges."
In 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a proposal to solicit an established not-for-profit to administer new streamlined capacity building grants to community-based organizations focused on addressing environmental justice issues. Established not-for-profit organizations with a demonstrated knowledge of environmental justice, a history of prioritizing environmental justice issues, and experience building a diverse and inclusive environmental movement were eligible.
Founded in 1988 to combat environmental injustice in West Harlem, WE ACT has dedicated itself to building healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and low-income community members engage in meaningful participation to create sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. To help implement its responsibilities under DEC's Capacity Building Grant program, WE ACT will receive $1 million, funded through the state's Environmental Protection Fund, to advance Governor Cuomo's commitment to supporting the work of environmental justice organizations. WE ACT will then distribute $900,000 of the funding through streamlined capacity building grants to the organizations they work with and help implement their missions.
"We are proud to have been selected by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to administer these funds to environmental justice organizations throughout the state," said Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder & Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. "Governor Cuomo and the State of New York clearly recognize the need to invest in environmental justice capacity building to protect frontline communities and WE ACT has been developing its capacity and expertise in regranting to organizations in its national coalition. This innovative philanthropic model reflects New York's leadership in the way in which state resources are being directed to grassroots organizations."
WE ACT will manage the Environmental Justice Capacity Building Grants in coordination with DEC. Through this partnership, DEC and WE ACT will advance environmental justice efforts in New York and further local efforts to inform and engage residents on environmental concerns and decision-making that impacts public health and the environment, creates community-led scientific research and plans, addresses and prepares for climate change impacts, and improves environmental conditions in their neighborhoods.
Today's announcement builds on other environmental justice initiatives spearheaded in New York State. In December 2018 (leaves DEC website), $2.6 million in Community Impact Grants to 28 organizations were awarded by Governor Cuomo. In May 2019 (leaves DEC website), an additional $4.3 million was made available to support projects that address environmental and public health concerns in low-income communities and communities of color that have historically been burdened by environmental challenges. More than $30 million has been allocated for Environmental Justice initiatives since 2011.
Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo also signed the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, The CLCPA requires the State to achieve a carbon free electricity system by 2040 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions 85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, setting a new standard for states and the nation to expedite the transition to a clean energy economy. The new law will drive investment in clean energy solutions such as wind, solar, energy efficiency and energy storage. Importantly, implementation of the CLCPA will target investments to benefit disadvantaged communities, create tens of thousands of new jobs, improve public health and quality of life and provide all New Yorkers with more robust clean energy choices. As part of CLCPA, relevant state agencies will invest 35 percent of clean energy program resources to benefit disadvantaged communities, and will aim to invest 40 percent. Additionally, the just transition working group will work to ensure that individuals working in conventional energy industries are provided with training and opportunities in the growing clean energy economy.