Author: Emily Halvorson Published: 7/11/2023 Evergreen Action
Report Offers Recommendations for States’ National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program Plans under Justice40
Today, Evergreen Collaborative, Atlas Public Policy, EVHybridNoire, and GreenLatinos released a first-of-its-kind report examining the implementation of Justice40 goals in early National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (NEVI) plans.
Charging Toward Justice: How States Can Lead on Racial and Economic Equity through the NEVI Program, analyzes how states incorporated equity and Justice40 principles in their initial NEVI implementation plans and is designed to inform policymakers ahead of the Federal Highway Administration’s August 1st deadline for states to submit revised plans to the federal government. NEVI is one of the first Justice40-covered programs to be implemented nationwide and provides an early opportunity to evaluate the critical work that the Biden administration and states need to do in order to ensure that 40 percent of the benefits of certain federal programs flow to disadvantaged communities.
The recommendations included in the report for states’ revised plans were informed by both an analysis of state NEVI plans as well as robust national and local stakeholder interviews. The analysis finds that states varied considerably in how they prioritized equity and public engagement in developing their initial state NEVI plans. Public engagement emerged as a major opportunity for improvement in establishing meaningful partnerships with disadvantaged communities and allowing community members to advocate for themselves in how NEVI can be most beneficial.
The new analysis identifies six strategies for states to both improve public engagement and maximize tangible benefits to disadvantaged communities going forward:
- Expand engagement strategies targeted specifically to reach disadvantaged communities, including widening reach on social media, email lists, local media, and meetings including communities of color and tribal communities.
- Enhance the accessibility of educational material to better reflect local community needs and contexts through expanding translations to incorporate all local languages and raising awareness in disadvantaged communities of state and federal resources available to boost EV adoption.
- Define Justice40 benefits through engagement with community members and ensure there are opportunities for feedback as NEVI is implemented.
- Build agency capacity for subsequent NEVI plans, train staff to leverage additional federal funds, and proactively involve community-based organizations.
- Conduct a fully public and documented engagement process to ensure transparency and build community partnership and trust. States can also strengthen their plans by considering any safety concerns in the citing of charging infrastructure in particular locations.
- Broaden the equity lens with complementary and comprehensive policies. For example, state incentive programs for zero-emission transportation can help focus additional resources in and around disadvantaged communities. EV regulatory design and incentives, corporate EV sales strategies, and infrastructure design should all be approached comprehensively.
Evaluating the efficacy of programs through an equity and Justice40 lens early and often is crucial for making adjustments. It’s also critical that the Biden administration, informed by this analysis and others, continue to refine and strengthen its guidance for states across all Justice40 programs. Justice40 considerations are especially important for transportation programs like NEVI, given the disproportionate pollution burden faced by disadvantaged communities and the harmful history of transportation investments in the US.
“Equity must be a central pillar in the development of a nation wide, public EV charging network. The analysis in this report shows that in just six months since NEVI was implemented, states have made significant progress towards realizing the vision of Justice40—but there is still a ways to go,” said Rachel Patterson, Evergreen Collaborative deputy policy director. “Accomplishing Justice40 standards in the NEVI program requires collaboration between both state policymakers and the federal government as well as the people actually working and living in disadvantaged communities. In this moment, there is an incredible opportunity to create equitable, clean transportation from the ground up. We hope that this report can provide important lessons and tools for states as they move into the next stage of the NEVI implementation process.”
“Underserved communities have historically been excluded from transportation decisions, leading to decades of cultural, social, and economic impairment. Through the $5 billion NEVI program, we now have the chance to avoid repeating history’s mistakes,” said Moe Khatib, policy associate at Atlas Public Policy. “In our analysis, we found that in some cases, a disconnect exists between planners and communities. Agencies should use this opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with their communities, define local benefits, and consistently and thoroughly provide avenues for engagement throughout the five-year program period and beyond.”
“As EV charging networks are built up, it’s crucial that states center equity and prioritize historically marginalized and underserved communities,” said Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, sustainable communities program director at GreenLatinos. “We are in uncharted territory as this new infrastructure is built out – making the NEVI program effective and accessible will require conscious policy decision-making that reflects and responds to community needs. This report highlights replicable best practices and sheds light on areas where work still needs to be done to achieve Justice40 benchmarks. We hope this research will inform states as they seek to create the strongest possible NEVI implementation plans and build the crucial infrastructure needed to achieve an equitable transportation future for all communities.”
“We are witnessing transformational investments to accelerate equitable electrification investments, an area that is unfamiliar to many state transportation leaders. As a result, this report fills a significant gap in knowledge and serves as a critical resource for states as they navigate NEVI Implementation,” said Dr. Shelley Francis, Co-Founder and Director at EVHybridNoire.
For more unique state approaches to public engagement and equitable program implementation, including specific best practices, read the full report here.