EPA to Help Oregon and Washington Schools Become Community Cleaner Air and Cooling Centers



Region 10 press releases

Schools will receive technical assistance to create cleaner air and neighborhood cooling shelters in vulnerable communities affected by smoke from forest fires and episodes of extreme heat

SEATTLE (Nov 1, 2021) – Today, the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will use funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to help schools retrofit their heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) systems to create cleaner air and neighborhood cooling shelters in vulnerable communities. The EPA has selected Multnomah County in Oregon and Kittitas County in Washington to participate in the Schools as a pilot program of community air conditioning and sanitation centers.

“This aid will help schools keep their students safe every day with cleaner air,” said administrator Michael S. Regan. “Additionally, as we see increasing impacts of climate change, this approach may be a model for how other communities can create safe gathering places during dangerous heat waves and smoke events. “

The announcement comes at the launch of the White House Interagency Extreme Heat Working Group, which is co-chaired by the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the US Department of Health and Human Services. The EPA will bring together partners, including public health agencies, community organizations, school districts and emergency response experts, to ensure that schools are safe places for children to learn and for neighbors to learn. get together, especially during forest fires and extreme heat events.

EPA and its team of consultants, which will include experts in community engagement, disaster policy and HVAC engineering, will hold workshops with local partners to create an action plan to renovate schools. The action plan, developed with the participation of the community, will include objectives, such as:

  • Improve ventilation and filtration systems in public schools to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and other airborne diseases.
  • Create healthy learning environments by improving indoor air quality in schools.
  • Keep schools open in the face of more frequent and severe episodes of extreme heat and wildfire smoke.
  • Establish cleaner air shelters and cooling centers in areas known to have more residents likely to have serious health effects from extreme heat and smoke from forest fires.

EPA assistance will be informed by community organizations in each location to ensure that projects are focused on the vision of those who live and work in those communities, especially those whose voices have been historically under-represented. . This effort is part of EPA’s commitment to achieve environmental justice by stepping up community efforts to address legacy injustices made worse by climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

This program is a partnership between the EPA Office of Community Revitalization, Office of Air and Radiation, Office of Child Health Protection, Office of Research and Development, and 9 Regions and 10. The EPA also selected Pima County, Arizona and Bay Area Air Quality Management. District in the communities of the San Francisco Bay Area for this project.

Projects are expected to start later this year. For more information on the projects, visit: https://www.epa.gov/arp/schools-community-cleaner-air-and-cooling-centers.

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EPA Region 10 serves communities in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and 271 tribal nations. To learn more about the EPA’s work in the Pacific Northwest, visit: www.epa.gov/epa-region-10-pacific-northwest.

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