In July, U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted to prohibit the EPA from funding its Environmental Justice Small Grants Program. We can thank the 46 Republicans who joined every House Democrat to override people like McMorris-Rodgers, protecting this critical program, at least for now.

With her vote, McMorris Rodgers attempted to de-fund laudable efforts such as Washington’s South King County Just Garden Project; California’s pesticide safety training for farmworkers to help protect children at risk of toxics exposure; and monitoring to prevent invasive mussels from entering waterways in the Blackfeet Nation. 

In one of Seattle’s poorest and most diverse neighborhoods, the Environmental Justice Small Grants program funded the “Duwamish Community Action for Clean Air” project to address air pollution and high rates of asthma in the Duwamish Valley. In Reno, an EJP grant supported a youth program exploring polluted drinking water, groundwater threats, and water conservation through the lens of STEM education. Another EJP grant supported education for domestic workers to learn how to protect themselves from toxic cleaning products.

These are just a few examples of the important, low-cost, citizen-empowering programs that have benefited from the EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants Program. (Click here to learn more about the many grantees who have benefited from the Small Grants Program.) 

According to the EPA website, Environmental Justice Small Grants help “make our vulnerable, environmentally burdened, and economically disadvantaged communities healthier, cleaner and more sustainable places in which to live, work, play and learn.” McMorris-Rodgers’s vote to end this important program shows her disregard for not only environmental and health concerns, but also for community efforts to address environmental racism and systemic inequality.  

Environmental Justice is a core principle guiding the mission of 350 Spokane. We are very disappointed that Spokane’s Representative in Congress votes to end funding for this vital work. We support community-led solutions to address the environmental dangers heaped on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in our country. We hope McMorris-Rodgers will better consider the needs of her environmentally-burdened constituents in the future.