Author: ECC Staff    Published: 3/28/2023    Emerald Cities Collaborative

Hello EJ/CJ Community Members!

In this month’s update you’ll find:

  • The Council on Environmental Quality released additional Instructions to Federal Agencies on how they should be incorporating the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool into their Justice40 implementation.
  • President Biden signed a NEW Executive Order on advancing racial equity
  • WE ACT for Environmental Justice provides Analysis on Version 1.0 of the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool.
  • The Department of Energy announced Phase 1 of the Buildings UP Prize.

I. Federal Updates: New Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool Instructions

Executive Order: Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government

On the first day of his Presidency, President Biden signed Executive Order 13985: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. Through this Executive Order, the Biden-Harris Administration charged the federal government with advancing racial equity for all and addressing systemic racism in our Nation’s policies and programs. President Biden recommitted his Administration to these efforts last month by signing Executive Order 14091: Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. In this Executive Order, President Biden acknowledges that achieving racial equity and support for underserved communities is not a one time effort and must be a multi-generational endeavor.

Within this Executive Order, the Biden-Harris Administration outlines additional efforts federal agencies must take to further combat discrimination and advance equal opportunity. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Requires federal agencies to establish Agency Equity Teams that will be responsible for coordinating agency equity initiative implementation and delivering equitable agency outcomes.
  • Establishes the White House Steering Committee on Equity to coordinate government wide efforts to advance equity.
  • Requires federal agencies to submit agency Equity Action Plans to the White House Steering Committee on an annual basis starting in September 2023.
  • Requires federal agencies to increase community engagement with underserved communities and be more proactive in their community outreach around agency programing and policy development and implementation.
  • Establishes a government wide federal procurement goal of 15% for contracts awarded to small socially and economically disadvantaged owned businesses for fiscal year 2025 (beginning October 1, 2024) and requires each agency to work with the Small Business Administration to establish agency specific procurement goals.

Council on Environmental Quality Releases Agency Instructions for Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool

Earlier this year, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the National Climate Advisor released an Addendum to their Interim Implementation Guidance for the Justice40 Initiative. This Addendum required federal agencies to begin using the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) as their primary tool for identifying disadvantaged communities. To provide guidance to federal agencies on how they should be using CEJST, CEQ also released CEJST Instructions for federal agencies.

Within the CEJST Instructions, CEQ clarifies that while federal agencies should use CEJST as the starting point for identifying disadvantaged communities for Justice40 purposes, federal agencies will still be allowed to use their own data and metrics to prioritize communities within the list of disadvantaged communities identified by CEJST. Federal agencies may prioritize communities that meet the criteria to qualify for multiple categories of burden (such as energy, health, and legacy pollution) or communities that face categories of burden that are relevant to the agency’s programing.

II. The Department of Energy: Buildings UP Prize Competition

“Buildings UP” is designed to accelerate the transformation of U.S. buildings into energy-efficient and clean energy-ready homes, commercial spaces, and communities and is offering more than $22 million in cash prizes and technical assistance to teams across America with winning ideas to accelerate widespread, equitable energy efficiency and building electrification upgrades.

In Phase 1 of “Buildings UP,” teams will submit concepts to increase building energy upgrades, choosing to enter one of two pathways: “Equity-Centered Innovation” or “Open Innovation.” Winning “Equity-Centered Innovation” teams, focused on delivering upgrades to low- and moderate-income homes; small, disadvantaged businesses; and other equity-eligible buildings, will receive $400,000 in cash. Winning “Open Innovation” teams will receive $200,000 in cash. Winners from both pathways will also receive expert technical assistance and coaching to help bring their ideas to life.

Phase 1 opened for submissions on February 18, 2023 and will close July 18, 2023.

Community-based organizations, state and local governments, Indian tribes, building owners, utilities, nonprofit organizations, energy efficiency program implementers, and other organizations are encouraged to team up and apply.

There is also an Application Support Prize available. Up to 50 winning teams will be awarded $5,000 and up to 10 hours of technical support through the Application Support Prize. Applicants are intended to be those who might not otherwise have the staff capacity, time, or expertise to submit a full Phase 1 submission. The primary competitors for the Application Support Prize are first-time applicants for funding from the Department of Energy Building Technologies Office and community-based organizations (CBOs) representing or serving areas with equity-eligible buildings. Application Support Prize submissions will be reviewed and awarded monthly from February through May 2023, until funds are expended.

Residential Retrofits for Energy Equity (R2E2), is also providing training and capacity-building assistance for organizations that are interested in applying for this funding opportunity.

If your organization is interested in applying, Buildings UP is offering a Phase 1 Webinar Training Series. You can check out an overview of the Training Series below:

  • 4/10/23, 1-2:30 pm ET – Introduction to Community-Driven Planning: Register Here
    • This webinar focuses on how to develop authentic community partnerships and best engage frontline communities in the context of planning for building upgrades. Our speakers will identify ways to build stronger connections between agencies, local governments, community-based organizations, and community members; provide an overview of Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning‘s planning principles and frameworks; and familiarize attendees with resources on effective strategies for community engagement.
  • 4/12/23, 12:30-2pm ET – Accessing Funding Sources for Affordable Housing and Equity-Eligible Commercial Building Retrofits: Register Here
    • A common barrier to scaling building retrofits is lack of sufficient funding. This is true of all building types, but most pronounced in affordable housing and underserved commercial buildings. In this webinar, we will discuss funding in detail: where it comes from (federal, state, philanthropic, utility, private lending), how it flows down to communities, and how different funding sources can work together to finance affordable housing and underserved commercial building retrofits. Presenters will speak to common challenges and barriers, exemplary programs, and specific, timely funding mechanisms to look out for, such as the Inflation Reduction Act and Environmental Justice Community Block Grants.
  • 4/14/23, 1-2:30pm ET – Energy Efficiency Programs 101: Register Here
    • This webinar will cover the fundamentals of energy efficiency programs. Attendees will learn about the various factors and organizational practices that influence the success of pursuing energy efficiency upgrades in affordable housing and underserved commercial buildings. Speakers will present the landscape of programs that teams might consider to advance energy efficiency and clean heating and cooling technologies in their communities, including their benefits and potential negative impacts. Lastly, we will take a deep dive into one or two select program models (e.g., one-stop-shops) to understand what it takes to stand up and implement these initiatives.
  • 4/26/23, 1:30-2:30pm ET – Considerations for Underserved Commercial Buildings: Register Here
    • This webinar will introduce the concept of underserved, or equity-eligible, commercial buildings. Speakers will discuss reasons why certain commercial buildings are underserved, common barriers to pursuing upgrades in underserved commercial buildings, and potential strategies for overcoming or addressing those barriers. A focus of this webinar will be helping you understand how to craft a locally appropriate definition of “underserved commercial” and choosing which segments of your building stock and/or community (e.g., by location, ownership type, business/entity type, building size, etc.) to target to maximize the benefits of energy efficiency in your community.
  • 4/28/23, 1-2:30pm ET – Drivers of Energy Efficiency in Affordable Housing: Register Here
    • Energy efficiency is particularly important in affordable housing; because one of the benefits of energy efficiency interventions is lower utility bills, these upgrades can go a long way in ensuring rents and costs of living remain affordable to households. This webinar will explore energy costs in the context of total operating expenses in different types of affordable housing, introduce the drivers (or lack thereof) of energy efficiency upgrades, and offer suggestions for overcoming challenges. Attendees will learn how to make the business case for energy efficiency upgrades to affordable housing owners and developers.
  • 5/10/23, 1:30-3pm ET- Choosing your Building Upgrade Zone: Structural Equity Considerations: Register Here
    • This webinar introduces the concept of energy equity and gives an overview of how disinvestment in communities has contributed to the problem of inefficient, unhealthy, and expensive-to-operate residential and commercial building stock. Our speakers will offer guiding strategies for choosing your building upgrade zone by prioritizing procedural equity, lived experience considerations, and data availability to decide which buildings or segments of communities to focus on when planning for upgrades. Attendees will also be introduced to several data tools that can assist you in choosing residential and commercial buildings to include in your building upgrade zone.
  • 5/11/23, 12-1:30pm ET – Building Upgrades: An Opportunity for Workforce and Economic Inclusion: Register Here
    • This webinar introduces strategies that will leverage residential and commercial retrofit projects towards realizing workforce diversity and economic inclusion. It will cover why leveraging retrofits for community benefits is important and identify challenges towards employing a diverse workforce and implementing economic inclusion strategies. Speakers will offer guidance on how to develop project requirements that track workforce diversity and economic inclusion and how to identify partners who can help project teams realize their workforce goals.

III. Resources

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has released the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Dashboard. This interactive mapping tool provides an overview of how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding has been allocated thus far.

WE ACT for Environmental Justice released a Memo analyzing the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool Version 1.0 (CEJST). In this Memo, WE ACT breaks down the demographic data of disadvantaged communities identified by both iterations of CEJST (the Beta version released in February 2022 and Version 1.0 released in November 2022), provides an initial analysis of how the data results differ, and makes recommendations on how future iterations of CEJST can ensure communities most impacted by environmental injustices are prioritized for federal investment.

Interested in how the Administration’s Agencies have been implementing Justice40 and incorporating Equity and Environmental Justice concerns into their Agency missions? Check out ECC’s quick reference guide here.

IV. On the Horizon: Upcoming Community Listening and Engagement Calls and Virtual Learning Opportunities

Regional PFAS Community Engagement Sessions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting Regional per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) Community Engagement sessions to better understand the lived experience and challenges of communities dealing with the harms of PFAS contamination. EPA will be hosting virtual community engagement sessions in each of EPA’s ten regions. EPA has already hosted community engagement sessions for Regions 3, 7, and 8; however, you can sign up here to register for the remaining regional engagement sessions.

Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Weekly Call

Every Thursday at 4PM ET, the White House Office on Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA) hosts briefing calls to provide federal updates. You can register for the calls here and find out more information about the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs here.

Addressing Indoor Air Quality with WE ACT for Environmental Justice

On March 29 at 2PM ETJust Solutions Collective (JSC) is co-hosting a webinar with WE ACT for Environmental Justice to discuss the impacts of poor indoor air quality. The webinar will focus on the “Out of Gas, in with Justice” Pilot program in New York where WE ACT for Environmental Justice assessed the benefits and feasibility of replacing gas stoves with induction stoves in affordable housing. You can register for the webinar here.

National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Virtual Public Meeting

The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) will be meeting on March 29 and March 30 from Noon ET to 6PM ET on each day. At the meetings, NEJAC will be interested in hearing public comments around the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to provide water infrastructure technical assistance to environmental justice communities. You can register for the meeting here. You can find more information about NEJAC here.