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Grants promote community health and environmental justice in Colorado

Release Date: 12/17/2008
Contact Information: Nancy Reish, 303 312-6040; Art Palomares, 303 312-6053; Rich Mylott, 303 312-6654

EPA boosts projects in Alamosa, Denver, Fort Collins and Silverton

(Denver, Colo. -- December 17, 2008) A series of grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will help Colorado's Latino, Native American and low-income communities reduce energy consumption, secure cleaner water, and reduce exposure to toxic substances. The grants were awarded today under EPA's Environmental Justice Small Grants program.

    "Colorado's minority and low-income communities need support as they develop the capacity to respond to human health and environmental issues," said Art Palomares, Director of EPA's Environmental Justice program in Denver. "These grants will help communities speak with a stronger voice as they work to improve their quality of life. They will support efforts to reduce utility bills and greenhouse gas emissions, improve drinking water quality, and address challenges associated with energy development and abandoned mines."

    EPA established the Environmental Justice Small Grants program in 1994 to support and empower communities that are working on local solutions to local environmental and/or public health issues. The grants are designed to assist recipients in building collaborative partnerships that will help them understand and address the environmental and/or public health issues in their communities. Successful collaborative partnerships with other stakeholders involve well-designed strategic plans to build, maintain and sustain the partnerships, and to work towards addressing the local environmental and/or public health issues.

    The projects awarded are summarized below.

    Porch Bulb Project
    Denver, CO
    Amount: $20,000

    This project addresses environmental justice issues likely to result from future climate change impacts by focusing on simple actions that build healthy communities today. The goal of the Porch Bulb Project is to empower Denver's low-income Latino immigrant community to reduce air pollution and properly dispose of household toxic substances while also providing education on mitigating and adapting to potential future environmental and public health impacts of climate change. The project includes door-to-door outreach, through which volunteers and community workers will engage residents and offer to replace high-energy use incandescent front porch bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. This simple gesture provides residents with immediate energy and cost savings, and reduces air pollution associated with electricity generation. These visits also offer opportunities for more in-depth conversations about ways to save energy in the home and other environmental issues.

    Citizens for San Luis Valley Water
    Alamosa, CO
    Amount: $20,000

    This project will be conducted by a broad collaborative network formed to help low-income rural populations living in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. The goal is to provide testing of unregulated household drinking water wells and to educate residents about specific ways to protect their health by protecting their water supply. The project will target low-income residents living near acid mine drainage, mining operations, toxic drift areas, or agricultural fields with commercial applications of fertilizers and pesticides. The program will empower these communities by educating participants about ground water quality, air quality, and public health, by reinforcing the need to test water quality regularly, and by encouraging residents to take measures to avoid contamination and exposure to toxins found in household wells.

    Mountain Studies Institute
    Silverton, CO
    Amount: $20,000

    The goal of the project is to educate, empower, and facilitate the participation of communities in southwest Colorado and northwest New Mexico that may be affected by air, water, and toxics pollution from oil and gas and energy production facilities. Mountain Studies and their partners will work to: (1) build community knowledge about ozone, mercury, and other environmental quality issues via youth-created radio announcements; reader-friendly outreach materials; and air/water quality alerts in newspapers; (2) engage a broad range of stakeholders via an Air Quality Forum; and (3) facilitate community participation by forming mercury and ozone advisory committees. This project will encourage more informed environmental decision-making by residents. Examples include, an angler deciding whether or not to consume caught fish; an asthma-sufferer deciding what level of outdoor activity to engage in on a summer afternoon; or a resident deciding what to write in a public comment to a government agency.

    Trees, Water & People
    Fort Collins, CO
    Amount: $20,000

    The project titled Hope in the Headwaters will provide capacity-building skills to at least 15 hardrock mining watershed groups representing more than 672,000 citizens at two training sessions in the spring and fall of 2009. The participants will gain: (1) skills and knowledge that will enhance community capacity to identify and affect local environmental justice issues; (2) knowledge of nonprofit capacity building and watershed issues; (3) networking opportunities; and (4) technical assistance in grant writing, board development, volunteer monitoring programs. Each training will be tailored to the requests of stakeholders, such as offering a track on water monitoring for both the beginner and the more advanced volunteers. The measurable outcomes will be a more successful and sustainable group of watershed organizations working throughout the West.

    For more information on EPA's Environmental Justice grant programs, visit http://www.epa.gov/compliance/environmentaljustice/grants/index.html