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This May Be Biden's Most Egregious Taxpayer Giveaway Yet

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is ladling out—excuse me, “investing,” as the EPA calls it—$177 million to create 17 “technical assistance centers” that will help environmental justice groups grab even more taxpayer money.
Or as the PBS News Hour describes it, “Better training on how to navigate the complex federal grant making process is something environmental justice organizations have been demanding since the beginning of the Biden administration.”
The stated purpose for the grants is to help “community groups” so they can “compete for federal money for projects including pollution cleanup, air quality monitoring and workforce development for jobs in wind and solar.”
The EPA’s plan raises so many questions it’s hard to know where to begin.
First, the $177 million is supposed to provide $10 million each to 17 universities and environmental nonprofits to assist environmental justice groups. But $10 million per center seems like a lot of money to help navigate federal red tape, as cumbersome as that can be.
How many people do these centers need to do the job? Will all the money be used for the stated project? Or will part of it be used to cover expenses for other purposes?
Second, who are these environmental justice groups? We’re all for “pollution cleanup,” but what does that mean in this context? Will the groups be gathering folks to walk the highways and parks and pick up trash? That’s beneficial and doesn’t take any specialized training.
But if the goal is projects like replacing lead pipes or cleaning up polluted lakes or rivers, those jobs take expertise, the right equipment, and numerous regulatory permits. Are these environmental justice groups going to contract with professionals? If so, wouldn’t it be better to let the appropriate federal employees take on those responsibilities?
And why is an environmental justice group developing a workforce for wind and solar jobs? Aren’t colleges and technical schools better suited for that type of training?
The PBS story cites the director of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice in Houston, who says, “There are communities waiting for (toxic) sites to get cleaned up. They are waiting for infrastructure to be built so their communities don’t flood.”
Those are important tasks, but “communities” don’t build infrastructure; companies with trained professionals do. Again, that seems like something the EPA should be overseeing, not environmental justice groups.
Finally, money is fungible. Once a group receives federal funds, it can divert at least part of those funds for other tasks, like engaging in advocacy and lobbying. Will anyone be ensuring the money is used for environmental projects, and not protesting fossil fuel companies or their advocates?
We don’t have answers to any of these questions yet. But this taxpayer giveaway looks a lot more like funding Biden's friends than fixing real environmental problems.