by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Gillette [Wyoming] is no boomtown. With an average family income of just over $83,000, the local economy is fragile and almost entirely dependent on mining. As President Joe Biden and the Environmental Protection Agency push through regulations aimed at shuttering domestic coal production by 2035, Gillette has looked to the federal government for help. …
… Former Gillette County commissioner Rusty Bell, who now works at a state agency dedicated to applying for federal grants, thought his city was a perfect match for one of the hundreds of federal grants up for grabs: more than $100 million to clean up and repurpose abandoned mines.
“These grants looked like they were written for our area,” he told the Washington Free Beacon.
And yet, Gillette wasn’t chosen. “We weren’t even a finalist,” Bell says.
He suspects it is in part because the town is more than 90 percent white, a factor that makes it hard to secure federal aid under a little-known federal initiative established in one of Biden’s first executive orders.
The program, Justice40, which the White House describes as a “whole of government effort,” decreed that 40 percent of the beneficiaries of federal climate and environmental programs must come from “underserved communities.”
The White House stops short of saying that those communities are defined by race, and that benefits like federal infrastructure grants are likely to be doled out on the basis of a community’s racial composition rather than a community’s needs.
But others are saying the quiet part out loud. …
… The Biden administration is also leaning on a cottage industry of nonprofits that have sprung up to assist communities applying for grants. They explicitly define Justice40 in racial terms.