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PAGO PAGO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $200,000 grant to the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency (AS-EPA) to address air quality issues across the island of Tutuila. Stay-at-home orders tied to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increase in open burning on Tutuila, with negative consequences for air quality. The funds come from the American Rescue Plan and are being awarded as a grant under EPA’s State Environmental Justice Cooperative Agreement (SEJCA) program. Awards made through this program are the first competitive grants from the EPA focusing directly on the unequal impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color, low-income communities, and other vulnerable populations.
“The U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI) face some of the greatest environmental and COVID-related burdens,” said Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Jordan. “We are pleased to support American Samoa’s efforts to address these challenges and congratulate them for being the first USAPI to receive a SEJCA award.”
AS-EPA will use this American Rescue Plan funding to address underserved residents’ increased exposure to outdoor pollutants caused by open burning, which has been practiced more frequently due to local stay-at-home orders. The project will strategically install four air quality monitoring stations across the island of Tutuila to measure real time air quality. Data will assist in inter-agency collaborations for making informed decisions and plans to improve air quality on the island. The air quality information will also be used in an educational program about the negative health and environmental impacts of burning yard waste compared to the positive benefits of composting.
“I would like to thank Acting Regional Administrator Deborah Jordan and the entire team at the EPA Region 9 for their continuous support of the USAPI and especially American Samoa’s environmental programs. Being the first USAPI jurisdiction to receive a SEJCA award is a testament to the hard-working staff we have here at the AS-EPA Air & Land Division and I commend them for conquering this challenge,” said AS-EPA Director Fa’amao O. Asalele, Jr. “Understanding air pollution and its impacts will allow communities and organizations to work together to strike a balance between social good, economic growth and environmental implications associated with developments that cause air pollution. In doing so, this will promote healthy communities and create conditions that are supportive of developing and improving a sustainable framework of clean air investments and policies in American Samoa. My staff and I look forward to working with US EPA Region 9 and our local partners on the implementation of this very important project.”
Nationwide, projects supported by this funding include training, development of citizen-science tools, pollution monitoring, and educational campaigns to enable environmental justice advocates, scientists, and decision-makers to address pollution and create thriving communities. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law on March 11, 2021. It provides funds to address health outcome disparities from pollution and the COVID–19 pandemic. To learn more about the American Rescue Plan, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1319/text
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