UArizona gets $10 million from EPA for 'Environmental Justice Center' to 'build a more equitable world'

The University of Arizona received a $10 million award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fund a new environmental justice center.

The funding will help the university 'build a more equitable world.'

The University of Arizona has received a $10 million award from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fund a new environmental justice center.

EPA’s award will support the Western Environmental Science Technical Assistance Center for Environmental Justice (WEST EJ) for five years. The WEST EJ Center “will help communities achieve environmental and energy justice by serving as a one-stop shop for hands-on technical assistance, multifaceted training, and other eligible forms of assistance, resources and support,” the university said in a press release. 

“Our public health and environmental researchers here at the University of Arizona are among the best in the country, and I’m proud to see their expertise and experience recognized in this Environmental Justice Center grant from the EPA,” UArizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD said in a statement. 

“Dr. Paloma Beamer has shown exceptional leadership in environmental justice, and this new funding, combined with our existing relationships and knowledge, is going to enable us to work with communities to build a more equitable world,” Robbins added. 

Following a “hub-and-spoke model”, the WEST EJ Center will be a “central hub composed of several units within the University of Arizona.” Those units include the “Indigenous Resilience Center,” “Participatory Evaluation Institute,” “Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center,” and “Western Region Public Health Training Center.” 

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Paloma Beamer, professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona Health Sciences, led the environmental justice initiative to “overcome barriers.” 

“The EPA’s promise of clean air, land and water has not reached many historically marginalized communities due to a complex interaction of physical, social and economic factors,” the statement read. “The WEST EJ Center brings together a diverse coalition with longstanding relationships and extensive expertise working with communities to overcome these barriers.”

Additionally, the center will provide resources to “increase community involvement in environmental and energy decision-making through training in advocacy, environmental science, climate change, public health, energy infrastructure and student internship programs.”

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“I am so pleased to learn about this award for an Environmental Justice Center from the EPA, and so proud of Dr. Beamer and her team,” Dean of the UArizona College of Public Health, Iman Hakim, said in the statement.

“We have been working with rural communities, tribal communities and border communities around Arizona on environmental challenges for many years, and this new funding builds capacity to bring resources and programs that will grow environmental equity for all,” he added. 

The WEST EJ Center joins 16 other Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers under a new program organized by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy. Each center will “help underserved and overburdened communities across the country access funds from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, including historic investments to advance environmental justice,” the statement noted. 

Campus Reform has reached out to all relevant parties for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.