The Environmental Protection Agency is spending $90,000 a year on an "Environmental Justice Academy."
The agency recently honored its first graduates of the academy, which it describes as a "rigorous, in-depth leadership development program."
"EPA provided the nine-month environmental justice training program to cultivate skills participants can use to identify and address environmental challenges in their communities," the agency said.
Topics covered in the course include "how to leverage human, social, intellectual, technical, legal, and financial resources to make long-term progress in a community," and "how to use consensus-building processes and skills to help ensure successful collaboration and negotiations."
The academy is based on the EPA’s "Collaborative Problem-Solving Model," a seven-step flow chart that urges communities to work together to "bring about positive change" for sustainability.
The EPA defines environmental justice as the "fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies."
The Environmental Justice Academy started in September 2015, with participants staying overnight once a month from Friday afternoon to Saturday. The course includes lectures, classroom exercises, and homework for adults. Twenty-one students graduated from the Memphis, Tennessee academy last week.
An EPA spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that the academy going forward will cost $90,000 per year for Region 4, which includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.
To develop the curriculum during the first year, costs were higher, totaling $105,250 for the region.
"The funding is an investment in the health and well-being of overburdened communities, equipping participants with tools and resources to address environmental and public health problems on the ground independently," the spokesperson said.