News Release

U of M receives grant to help underserved communities access funding for energy and environmental improvement

Photo Credit: University of Minnesota Extension

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (4/13/2023) — The University of Minnesota will lead a multi-state effort to help rural, tribal and underserved communities access federal funding for energy and environmental improvement efforts. 

The University’s selection as an Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Center was announced today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The $10 million grant, which will be administered at the University, will be spread across six states and establish “one-stop shops” for grant assistance. 

“We know that so many communities across the nation have the solutions to the environmental challenges they face. Unfortunately, many have lacked access or faced barriers when it comes to the crucial federal resources needed to deliver these solutions,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Today we’re taking another step to break down these barriers.”

The University and partners will help communities navigate federal grant application systems, provide guidance on community engagement, and help communities in securing funds to address legacy pollution and invest in clean energy technologies. The University will oversee efforts in Minnesota and five other states.  

The project will be led by Associate Professors Bonnie Keeler and Gabe Chan of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in collaboration with University of Minnesota Extension Associate Dean Stephen Jeanetta. Keeler said the center’s role is to ensure that the billions of dollars the federal government has committed for infrastructure and energy improvements are shared equitably.   

"This influx of funding has the potential to transform communities throughout the Great Lakes through clean energy, community resilience, and improved environmental quality,” Keeler said. “However, many communities lack the technical expertise needed to successfully apply for complicated federal grants. We see an opportunity to leverage the resources of land grant universities throughout the region to make sure remote, rural, and underserved communities take full advantage of these once-in-a-generation investments."

The formation of technical assistance centers is in direct response to feedback from communities and environmental justice leaders who have long called for technical assistance and capacity-building support to access critical federal resources.

“Extension brings important ‘boots on the ground’ experience to this work, and the timing could not be more critical.  Whether we’re talking about rural areas and their distinctive climate adaptation needs or the communities dealing with decades of neglect, there is a lot of work to be done,” said Jeanetta.  

Participating across the six-state region are: 

  • Michigan State University, Purdue University in Indiana, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Ohio State University 
  • The Midwest Tribal Energy Resources Association
  • The Great Plains Institute
  • Community Engineering Corps
  • Environmental Protection Network

This is one of 17 technical assistance centers the EPA is establishing  across the country.  

Media Contacts

Rachel Cain

University Public Relations

Melanie Sommer Foy

Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Twin Cities

Allison Sandve

University of Minnesota Extension, Twin Cities