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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $150 million funding opportunity to help Alaska’s federally recognized tribes address climate change, subsistence foods security, water and energy infrastructure, and other environmental threats that impact their way of life and culture.

The notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) is part of a $2 billion initiative to support community-driven projects focused on clean energy, climate resilience, and environmental justice. 

Erosion, flooding, and thawing permafrost can threaten lives and damage infrastructure in Alaska Native villages, according to a 2022 GAO report. Climate change is expected to exacerbate these threats, as more than 70 of the 200-plus Alaska Native villages face significant environmental threats.

The EPA's new Community Change Grants, part of the Biden administration’s Investing in America agenda, aim to advance collaborative efforts for a healthier, safer, and more prosperous future. This funding, made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, represents the most substantial investment to date in clean energy and climate action, according to an EPA statement. 

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EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan, who visited Alaska in August as part of a “Journey to Justice Tour”, highlighted the importance of the initiative in addressing environmental justice concerns of Alaska Native tribes. Regan engaged with tribal leaders and Indigenous stakeholders, listening to firsthand accounts of challenges related to climate impacts, subsistence food security, water infrastructure, and contaminated lands.

"Throughout my Journey to Justice tour, I've heard from residents and advocates calling for resources to support local solutions in communities that have long been overlooked and forgotten," Regan said in a statement. 

Alaska, home to 229 federally recognized Alaska Native communities, faces unique challenges, particularly concerning contaminated lands conveyed through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971. Many lands promised to Alaska Native corporations pursuant to ANCSA were contaminated, adversely affecting Indigenous Alaskans and their communities. The $150 million allocation specifically targets the cleanup of these lands, addressing health concerns and supporting cultural, social, and economic activities.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) commended the funding, emphasizing its importance in rectifying environmental injustices. 

"This funding will help to fulfill the demands of Alaskans by addressing the issue of contaminated lands and help create new jobs,” Murkowski said in a statement. “I encourage all eligible Alaska Tribes and communities to apply for available funding—let's get to work to end this injustice." 

Representative Mary Peltola (D-AK) echoed the sentiment, stating, "Supporting these communities in their efforts to raise awareness of this issue has long been a priority of the Alaska Delegation, and we will continue to advocate for long-term solutions."

The Community Change Grants Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), administered through the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, focuses on targeted investment areas to ensure equitable competition for funding. This includes the $150 million for projects benefitting federally recognized Tribes in Alaska, emphasizing the cleanup of contaminated lands, pollution reduction, and Alaska-specific climate action strategies.

Applications are now being accepted.

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