EPA selects Wichita State as site for environmental justice center

Wichita State University’s Environmental Finance Center is one of 17 locations selected to establish an Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Center. This new center will promote environmental and energy justice in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and adjoining Indigenous nations.

According to the EPA’s news release, the environmental justice centers will be tasked with “removing barriers and improving accessibility for communities with environmental justice concerns. The centers will also provide training and other assistance to build capacity for navigating federal grant application systems, writing strong grant proposals, and effectively managing grant funding.”

Each of the EJ TCTACs will receive at least $10 million over the next five years from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. 

"This grant from the EPA is a phenomenal opportunity for Wichita State to drive prosperity for rural and underserved communities, who unfortunately carry a disproportional share of pollution and environmental hazards,” said Wichita State President Rick Muma. “We look forward to the opportunity to advance environmental justice in our region and promote healthy growth for Kansas and our Midwestern neighbors."

As EPA Region 7’s only environmental justice center, the EFC at Wichita State will implement an engagement and community assessment process to learn from communities about their burdens, barriers, priorities and opportunities, then work with the communities to address their unique needs by providing training, technical assistance, support services, applied research, tool development and other resources that will help remove barriers and improve accessibility for communities with environmental justice concerns. Each of the technical assistance centers will also create and manage communication channels to ensure all communities have direct access to resources and information.

Wichita State’s EJ TCTAC will partner with eight nonprofit organization throughout the four-state region to provide training and technical assistance. Partners include Center for Rural Affairs, Climate and Energy Project, Community Engineering Corps, Environmental Protection Network, Iowa Environment Council, Kansas Rural Center, Kansas State University Engineering Extension, and Metropolitan Congregations United.

“The Environmental Finance Center at Wichita State University is excited to start supporting communities and organizations in our four states as they tackle environmental justice and energy justice challenges close to home,” said director of the Wichita State Environmental Finance Center at Tonya Bronleewe. “We have a strong team of partners who are ready to connect with local champions to start this important work.”

This historic national investment of $177 million to advance environmental justice will help underserved and overburdened communities across the country access targeted funds from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda.

“Wichita State University has worked with EPA Region 7 for many years, and we’re thrilled to build upon that partnership to better serve those here in the Heartland who need it most,” said EPA Region 7 administrator Meg McCollister. “This new center will provide communities throughout Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska with the training, guidance and technical assistance needed to make the most of EPA’s historic funding opportunities.”

Wichita State’s EFC was established in 2010 and is housed within the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs, which aims to engage in applied research and applied learning that benefits the community — a mission that aligns directly with the role of the new EJ TCTACs.

About Wichita State University

Wichita State University is Kansas' only urban public research university, enrolling almost 22,000 students between its main campus and WSU Tech, including students from every state in the U.S. and more than 100 countries. Wichita State and WSU Tech are recognized for being student centered and innovation driven.

Located in the largest city in the state with one of the highest concentrations in the United States of jobs involving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Wichita State University provides uniquely distinctive and innovative pathways of applied learning, applied research and career opportunities for all of our students.

The Innovation Campus, which is a physical extension of the Wichita State University main campus, is one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing research/innovation parks, encompassing over 120 acres and is home to a number of global companies and organizations.

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