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24 January 2022

The Infrastructure Investment And Jobs Act—Investment In Weatherization

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The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes a major investment in climate resilience. Following 22 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each...
United States Environment
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The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes a major investment in climate resilience. Following 22 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each (and nearly $100 billion cumulatively) in 2021, the Act provides nearly $50 billion to make communities safer and infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change and cyber-attacks.

Climate resilience allows communities to anticipate, prepare for, and better withstand events related to climate change. The $50 billion investment includes funds to protect against increasing weather events such as droughts, floods, heat, and wildfires. Actions to improve infrastructure's climate resiliency can include moving homes out of flood zones, reinforcing levees, replacing roads to withstand extreme rainfall, treating forests to prevent wildfires, preserving or restoring wetlands, weatherization of water treatment plants (just to name a few), and otherwise investing in new technologies and programs to help communities adjust for increased rain, storms, fires, and heat.

The Act does not specify which communities will receive funds from the $50 billion investment. President Biden's Justice40 Initiative pledges to direct 40% (at least $20 billion) of federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities. A July 20, 2021 memorandum by the Office of Management and Budget provides interim guidance on how federal agencies should define disadvantaged communities, setting out very general factors:

  • Low income
  • High and/or persistent poverty
  • High unemployment or underemployment
  • Racial and ethnic residential segregation, particularly where the segregation stems from discrimination by government entities
  • Linguistic isolation
  • High housing cost burden and substandard housing
  • Distressed neighborhoods
  • High transportation cost burden and/or low transportation access
  • Disproportionate environmental stressor burden and high cumulative impacts
  • Limited water and sanitation access and affordability
  • Disproportionate impacts from climate change
  • High energy cost burden and low energy access
  • Jobs lost through energy transition
  • Access to healthcare

While final guidance on the definition of a disadvantaged community is forthcoming (in the form of a climate and economic justice screening tool, to be developed by CEQ), it's not clear how the federal government will ensure appropriate distribution of the climate resiliency funds. Given that communities that may be most in need of climate resilient infrastructure may also lack the resources to navigate the federal grant process, infrastructure project developers and other similar companies may want to partner with these communities throughout the grant process and work together on climate resiliency projects.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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