Category: Sustainable communities

Atlanta community resilience project seeks to become model for energy equity

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

The 30314 ZIP code of west Atlanta, home to the neighborhood of Bankhead, is one of the most energy-burdened zip codes in the city. Residents pay five times more for electricity and gas than their neighbors in Buckhead in north Atlanta do, despite making an average annual income that is five times less, according to a 2021 report by Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance.

The ZIP code also happens to be home to the Atlanta University Center (AUC), the world’s oldest and largest association of historically Black colleges and universities that includes Spelman College, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Clark Atlanta University. Morehouse College is the future location of a first-of-its-kind on-campus resilience center that will be supported by a solar-powered microgrid. In the event of a grid-scale power outage, the resilience center is being designed to operate on battery-stored solar power, providing essential resources to students and residents of the surrounding community.

Google turns its AI on traffic lights to reduce pollution

Read the full story at Engadget.

Poorly timed traffic lights don’t just waste precious minutes. Like Google’s chief sustainability officer Kate Brandt pointed out at a media event yesterday, they’re also bad for the environment and public health. The company unveiled a slew of sustainability-centric products and updates today that aim to help users make more informed, environmentally friendly decisions. But it’s also been working on a project that could use AI to make traffic lights more efficient and, as a result, decrease pollution in general. 

When your vehicle stops at an intersection, that idling time leads to wasted fuel and “more street-level air pollution,” Brandt said. Google’s new project would use AI to measure and calculate traffic conditions and timing at a city’s intersections, then time them more efficiently. Brandt said one of the company’s AI research groups has been able to accurately calculate and gather this data and train a model to optimize inefficient intersections. 

Health impact assessments: A new tool for analyzing land use plans, zone changes, and development projects

Read the full post at the Green Law Blog.

Health Impact Assessments have been a tool mainly used by state and federal health agencies to review and avoid the adverse public health impacts of their plans and large-scale capital projects. Local land use officials are beginning to employ Health Impact Assessments (HIA) to review community design issues in formulating comprehensive plans and reviewing land use projects to prioritize public health.

New resource outlines nature-based solutions for dealing with flooding

Read the full story at Treehugger.

Managing flood risk will be increasingly important for a huge number of communities and jurisdictions over the coming years. As extreme weather events become more frequent, and sea levels continue to rise, flooding will be a more common issue in many locations. New international guidelines which outline nature-based solutions for flood risk management are something that could help boost resilience moving forward. 

The International Guidelines on Natural and Nature-Based Features for Flood Risk Management” is a new resource designed to provide practitioners and decision-makers with the information they need to manage flood risk using “natural and nature-based features” (shortened with the acronym NNBF), rather than traditional hard infrastructure. This is the first time that a robust resource of this type has been developed that provides value beyond specific nations, mandates, missions, organizations, and communities. 

Deploy heat officers, policies and metrics

Read the full story in Nature.

Cities need heat governance to plan for extreme temperatures and protect those most at risk.

Grant will fund climate resilience strategies for frontline communities in the Carolinas

Read the full story from the North Carolina State Climate Office.

North Carolina State University will lead a multi-institutional effort to develop climate resilience solutions in frontline communities in the Carolinas, thanks to a five-year, $5 million dollar grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Frontline communities refer to communities who experience the first and worst impacts of the climate crisis.

Climate Resilience: Options to Enhance the Resilience of Federally Funded Roads and Reduce Fiscal Exposure

Download the document.

What GAO Found

During the last decade, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) undertook targeted efforts to encourage states to enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads, such as by developing agency policy, providing technical assistance, and funding resilience research. GAO identified projects in four states that planned or made resilience enhancements using FHWA’s resources. For example, Maryland used FHWA resources to raise a bridge by about 2 feet to account for projected sea level rise. Such efforts show the potential to enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads on a wider scale.

GAO identified 10 options to further enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads through a comprehensive literature search and interviews with knowledgeable stakeholders (see table). Some of these options are similar to recommendations made previously by GAO. Each option has strengths and limitations. For example, adding climate resilience requirements to formula grant programs could compel action but complicate states’ efforts to use federal funds.

Options to Further Enhance the Climate Resilience of Federally Funded Roads

1. Integrate climate resilience into Federal Highway Administration policy and guidance.
2. Update design standards and building codes to account for climate resilience.
3. Provide authoritative, actionable, forward-looking climate information.
4. Add climate resilience funding eligibility requirements, conditions, or criteria to formula grant programs.
5. Expand the availability of discretionary funding for climate resilience improvements.
6. Alter the Emergency Relief (ER) program by providing incentives for, or conditioning funding on, pre-disaster resilience actions.
7. Expand the availability of ER funding for post-disaster climate resilience improvements.
8. Establish additional climate resilience planning or project requirements.
9. Link climate resilience actions or requirements to incentives or penalties.
10. Condition eligibility, funding, or project approval on compliance with climate resilience policy and guidance.
Source: GAO analysis of literature and interviews with knowledgeable stakeholders. | GAO-21-436

Implementing multiple options offers the most potential to improve the climate resilience of federally funded roads, according to knowledgeable stakeholders and GAO’s analysis using the Disaster Resilience Framework , a guide for analyzing federal disaster and climate resilience efforts. This Framework states that integrating strategic resilience goals can help decision makers focus on a wide variety of opportunities to reduce risk. FHWA officials said that they likely would need additional authority from Congress to act on some, or a combination of, options and that the most effective way for Congress to ensure its priorities are implemented for any option is to put it in law. The most recent authorization of federal funding for roads covers fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2021, which ends on September 30, 2021. This provides Congress with an opportunity to improve the climate resilience of federally funded roads and better ensure they can withstand or more easily recover from changes in the climate. Providing FHWA with additional authority to implement one or more of the options could enhance the climate resilience of more—or all—federally funded roads.

Why GAO Did This Study

Changes in the climate pose a risk to the safety and reliability of the U.S. transportation system, according to the 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment. Congress authorized about $45 billion per year in federal funding for roads through 2021 and appropriated about $900 million per year in disaster assistance for fiscal years 2016 through 2020. In 2013, GAO included Limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks on its High-Risk List. Enhancing climate resilience—acting to reduce potential losses by planning for climate hazards such as extreme rainfall—can help manage climate risks.

GAO was asked to review climate resilience efforts for federally funded roads. This report examines (1) FHWA’s climate resilience efforts and (2) options to further enhance them. GAO reviewed FHWA documents and a non-generalizable sample of projects that used FHWA’s climate resilience resources, analyzed the content of 53 reports and pieces of legislation to identify options, interviewed stakeholders and agency officials, and analyzed options and FHWA efforts using GAO’s October 2019 Disaster Resilience Framework .

In Baltimore schools, cutting food waste as a lesson in climate awareness and environmental literacy

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

America wastes up to 40 percent of its food, and schools are no exception. Teaching students where food comes from is part of the solution.

USDA Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program

This program provides affordable funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas. An essential community facility is defined as a facility that provides an essential service to the local community for the orderly development of the community in a primarily rural area.

What does this program do?
This program provides affordable funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas. An essential community facility is defined as a facility that provides an essential service to the local community for the orderly development of the community in a primarily rural area, and does not include private, commercial or business undertakings.

What is an eligible area?
Rural areas including cities, villages, townships, and towns including Federally Recognized Tribal Lands with no more than 20,000 residents according to the latest U.S. Census Data are eligible for this program.

How may funds be used?
Funds can be used to purchase, construct, and / or improve essential community facilities, purchase equipment and pay related project expenses.

What are the funding priorities?
Priority point system based on population, median household income

  • Small communities with a population of 5,500 or less
  • Low-income communities having a median household income below 80% of the state nonmetropolitan median household income

To learn more and to apply, visit the Community Facilities Direct Loan & Grant Program webpage

EPA/Commission on the Environment Environmental Justice and Climate Resilience Grants

The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) is launching the EJ4Climate grant program to support environmental justice and climate resilience for underserved, vulnerable communities, and Indigenous communities across North America. Initiated by EPA, the CEC established this program to support underserved and overburdened communities in Canada, Mexico, and the United States as they prepare for climate-related impacts. This program will provide funding directly to Indigenous communities and community-based organizations to deliver environmental justice and advance local solutions to adapt to climate change.

  • Applications Due:  November 14, 2021
  • Eligibility:  Non-profit and non-governmental organizations, environmental groups, community-based associations, Tribal nations, and Indigenous Peoples and communities
  • Funding Available:  $2 million total

What types of projects are eligible for funding?
Possible projects under the grant program could include addressing extreme weather
impacts, transitioning to clean energy and/or transportation systems, or utilizing
traditional ecological knowledge to address climate change impacts. Project types can include capacity building, pilot projects, transfer of innovative technologies, conducting outreach or education, sharing best practices, communication and preparedness/response process improvements, training environmental and
community leaders, engaging youth on environmental activities, and reducing risks to
the environment.

For more information, visit the Environmental Justice and Climate Resilience webpage.

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