Technical Assistance for Environmental and Energy Justice
EPA Funds Awarded to Shape Efforts for Environmental Justice Across the Northwest
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has funded $10 million to Willamette Partnership, Portland State University, Rural Community Assistance Corporation, and partners with one of two northwest Environmental and Energy Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Center for Region 10, or “TCTAC,” an acronym pronounced like the mint candy TicTac. The northwest TCTACs are centers that will provide technical assistance, training, and other support to environmental justice communities in Alaska, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
We’re referring to our TCTAC as the Northwest Environmental Justice Center (NW EJ Center). You may see both “TCTAC” and “NW EJ Center” referenced below.
What’s a TCTAC?
The TCTAC is part of the federal government-wide Justice40 Initiative, to increase environmental justice and economic opportunities in communities on the frontlines of environmental, energy, and climate issues.
Our vision of the center is woven from Indigenous values, place-based connections, and relationship building to promote cycles of healing that counter the ongoing damages caused by settlement, displacement, racism, and colonialism. Through a network of state organizers and partners in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, the center will provide frontline communities with direct technical assistance, cohort learning and leadership development, ethical storytelling, and systems change and accountability. We will pay particular attention to communities where environmental, health, and economic burdens and capacity constraints co-occur–including Tribal and Indigenous communities, Black, Latinx, immigrant, and people with disability communities, especially in remote and rural areas. Center services will be provided through a lens of Indigenous values that embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, encompassing technical assistance, training, and support activities for environmental and energy justice.
Expanding Environmental and Energy Justice in the Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is rich with historic and present community leaders and advocates who have been leading the national EJ movement. Tribal fishermen in the 1960s staged a series of fish-ins to protest the State of Washington’s limited recognition of treaty rights during the Fish Wars. Alaskan Natives have spent more than a century fighting mining and drilling practices in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to protect wildlife, water quality, and cultural resources. In Oregon, Black community advocates have pushed for recognition, reconciliation, and reparation for the Vanport flood of 1948 that killed 15 people and displaced 17,500 Black residents from the Portland Metro area. Latinx leaders have successfully addressed pollutants in land, water, and air related to agro-industrial processes. Despite these efforts, data shows that the impact of colonization, racist policies, violence, and environmental destruction are still causing significant inequity in our communities. Throughout our region, Indigenous and Black communities are two and nearly three times (respectively) as likely to experience poverty as their white neighbors. Communities of color in urban areas from Boise to Anchorage are more likely to live along major transportation corridors that increase their exposure to air pollution and increase their risk of developing asthma.
We also know that climate change will only exacerbate these inequalities. Coastal towns and villages are facing erosion and flooding. The 2021 extreme heat event killed nearly 800 people in the Pacific Northwest, and smoke from longer wildfire seasons has increased hospitalizations for vulnerable communities, especially rural communities, low-income communities, and communities of color. Our region already has the community leadership, knowledge, and people to build a more just future. The center will partner with and support the growing capacity for local leadership and connect community leaders to resources essential to making meaningful change in the face of our present challenges.
The Northwestern TCTAC will be a place where Indigenous values and knowledge are centered and honored, where communities can access the expertise and resources needed to responsively create justice. Together, we can build the connections within and amongst communities needed to look seven generations into the future where ALL communities can thrive–no exceptions.
“This important funding serves as recognition of the injustices faced for decades by long-suffering and self-determined Indigenous peoples of rural Alaska. The methods for this work approved by US EPA allows tribal governments and their members to identify and prioritize the needs they will see addressed for their individual community. We at RCAC are looking forward to supporting the tribes in this valuable work!”
– Kristin K’eit, RCAC Alaska Field Manager and Environmental Finance Center Manager based in Anchorage, Alaska.
1. Community engagement and technical assistance
The center will engage with EJ communities all over the Northwest with organizers in each state. We will provide direct technical assistance projects to EJ communities that range from light-touch navigating communities to existing resources, to medium-touch preparation for receiving federal funds or updating community needs assessments, to more-intensive support for policy analysis or construction projects.
2. Cohort-style learning and leadership development
The center will offer five cohort learning opportunities where EJ community leaders and organizations can participate in training, be part of a facilitated community of practice for a year or longer, and access tools and assistance. Each annual cohort will include 10-20 participants:
- Data Justice
- Money, Finding It and Using It
- Just Energy Transitions
- Policy Navigation
- Environmental Justice Leadership Institute
- Student Engagement and Leadership Development
3. Ethical storytelling
The center recognizes the power of lifting stories and changing narratives in energy and environmental justice. The center will stay in touch and lift EJ stories of success via social media, video shorts, and other media, and share information and resources via regular newsletters, blogs, and an annual sharing of feedback and lessons learned.
4. Accountability– to community, to changing systems
The center needs to be community-led and accountable to its commitments to equity and centering Indigenous values. The center recognizes that justice means changing the systems that shape how we live, work, and play. We will adjust center services and priorities annually based on community feedback and will act with community and government partners to adjust policy, process, and institutions.
“Together with our partners, including Portland State University’s Institute for Tribal Government and Rural Community Assistance Corporation, we are ready to walk shoulder to shoulder with frontline communities for social mobility, environmental and energy justice, and climate resilience. Our region already has the community leadership, knowledge, and people to build safe and healthy environments for all, and this investment is a crucial step toward resourcing communities to tackle ongoing injustices. We believe this opportunity will drive meaningful change and build a more just future for all who live, work, play, and pray in our region.”
– Lynny Brown, Northwest Environmental Justice Center Co-Director, Willamette Partnership based in Portland, Oregon
Alongside Willamette Partnership, Portland State University Institute for Tribal Government, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation, and additional academic, business and nonprofit organizations will be working at the center.
- Willamette Partnership (Co-Manager, Technical Assistance, Training Specialist)
- Portland State University’s Institute for Tribal Government (Co-Manager, Technical Assistance, Training Specialist)
- Rural Community Assistance Corporation (Alaska Organizer and Technical Assistance)
- Alai Community Consulting (Oregon Organizer and Technical Assistance)
- Oregon Public Health Institute (Washington Organizer and Technical Assistance)
- Verde (Training Specialist)
- Boise State University’s Hazard and Climate Resilience Institute (Idaho Organizer and Technical Assistance)
- Kearns and West (Systems Change and Accountability, Training Specialist)
- Linguava (Translation and Interpretation)
- Community Engineering Corps (Technical Assistance)
- Environmental Protection Network (Technical Assistance)
- Oregon Health Authority’s Environmental Health Program (Technical Assistance)
- Zender Environmental and Health Research Group (Technical Assistance)
“El TCTAC o Centro de Asistencia Técnica para Comunidades será un espacio de solidaridad y convivencia dónde tribus, comunidades e individuos participantes podrán recibir el apoyo necesario para proyectos de justicia ambiental significativos para su vida diaria. Ya era hora que nuestras comunidades pudieran diseñar y ejecutar los proyectos que necesitan desde un espacio de auto-gestión solidaria.”
– Alaí Reyes-Santos, Alaí Community Consulting Director
Our first steps will be listening and learning from communities across the region. That means investing in partnerships and connecting with partners, including in remote and rural areas.
Inspired by the hub and spoke model, the TCTAC team has brought on state organizers for each state that have connections with diverse communities, extensive organizing experience, and offer culturally sensitive and responsive facilitation. We invest in high-quality relationship building to ensure communities who most need support are aware of the center’s services, feel comfortable asking for support, and are confident the center will provide those services in a culturally responsive and community-centered manner.
Photo credit to CDC, Unsplash
“This particular funding addresses some fundamental concerns around taking care of community — which is really about resources,” said Direlle Calica, Director of the PSU Institute for Tribal Government based in Portland, Oregon. “In Tribal communities, we take care of resources and they take care of us. This allows us to translate that into the day-to-day work that we do.”
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Have questions about the Northwest Environmental Justice Center?
Lynny Brown |
Co-Director, Northwest Environmental Justice Center
email | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ladan Ghahramani |
Co-Director, Northwest Environmental Justice Center
email | email@example.com
Cover photo credit to CDC, Unsplash