FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2020
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswomen Nanette Diaz Barragán (Calif. 44) and Yvette D. Clarke (N.Y. 9) introduced a bill to create the first federal program to build 100-percent clean energy microgrids to power critical infrastructure for communities in the aftermath of an extreme weather event or power shut-off.
The Energy Resilient Communities Act prioritizes energy equity and environmental justice by putting grant applications from low-income communities and communities of color at the front of the line for clean energy microgrid grants that will help combat power outages and rolling blackouts, reduce pollution, create green jobs, and fight the climate crisis.
“As the climate crisis worsens, our country is experiencing unprecedented wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and heat waves – often creating power outages. We experienced this in Los Angeles and throughout California in September when record heat waves created a state of emergency and caused tens of thousands of Southern California residents to lose power. Keeping the lights on and maintaining health care and emergency services can be the difference between life or death. The Energy Resilient Communities Act will help communities recover from extreme weather events by centering our most vulnerable communities at the heart of the clean energy revolution,” Congresswoman Barragán said.
“I’m proud to be introducing the Energy Resilient Communities Act along with Congresswoman Barragán, which will support resilient and equitable clean energy systems across the nation while also growing clean energy jobs,” said Congresswoman Clarke. “From Superstorm Sandy to summer heat waves, Brooklynites are all too familiar with the impacts of extreme weather on our communities and critical infrastructure. Unfortunately, we know that the climate crisis is only making these types of impacts more frequent and severe, particularly for those areas that have seen the greatest climate and pollution impacts yet received the least in renewable energy investment. And as our nation grapples with record fires out West, and a record hurricane season down South, we know that resilience and equity must be top of mind in all our efforts to build a better and cleaner future. Through the federal programs established by this legislation, local communities will have access to unparalleled grant funding and technical assistance to develop zero-emission microgrids that will simultaneously tackle the climate crisis while fortifying our essential services and infrastructure to the impacts of future climate disasters.”
In addition to the bill’s importance for maintaining power to critical facilities such as hospitals, fire stations, schools, grocery stores, senior and public housing, the Energy Resilient Communities Act will help our country fight the climate crisis and reduce air pollution. In 2019, 546 microgrids were installed in the United States. Of these, 86 percent were powered, at least in part, by burning fossil fuels. The legislation will support the construction of hundreds of microgrids annually powered by 100 percent clean energy.
In the absence of microgrids, communities often rely on diesel-powered generators, which heavily pollute the air and are dangerous if used improperly. More than half of the deaths associated with Hurricane Laura were caused by the use of portable generators.
Energy Resilient Communities Act Highlights:
- Authorizes $50 million in annual grants for technical assistance and $1.5 billion in annual grants for clean energy microgrids to support the critical infrastructure needed in the aftermath of an extreme weather event.
- A minimum of $150 million of annual authorized funding is reserved for grants supporting the construction of community-owned energy systems.
- State and local governments, territories, tribal agencies, utilities, and non-profits can apply for grants.
- Grants are prioritized for applications from environmental justice communities.
- Examples of critical infrastructure include hospitals, grocery stores, community centers, public safety facilities, water systems, public or affordable housing, medical baseline customers, and senior housing.
- Projects are additionally prioritized based on several criteria, including how effectively they reduce pollution and improve public health, whether they are built on previously disturbed land, whether they contracts for women and minority owned businesses, their utilization of apprenticeships, and whether the proposed project will be a community-owned energy system.
- The maximum federal cost share of 60%, except for environmental justice communities, where the maximum federal cost share is 90%.
- Includes Buy American provisions to maximize the creation of American manufacturing jobs in the production of materials and technology for microgrids.
- There are worker hiring targets for each project to maximize the number of local and economically disadvantaged workers, including those who live in environmental justice communities or were displaced from a previous job in the energy sector.
Barragán and Clarke were joined by 22 original cosponsors of the Energy Resilient Communities Act, including Congressmembers Albio B. Sires (N.J.), Diana DeGette (Colo.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Darren Soto (Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.), Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Grace Napolitano (Calif.), Paul D. Tonko (N.Y.), Jared Huffman (Calif.), Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), Debra Haaland (N.M.), Chellie Pingree (Maine), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Tom Suozzi (N.Y.), Chrissy Houlahan (Penn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.).
The Energy Resilient Communities Act is supported by Sierra Club, 350.org, National Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Action, Mothers Out Front, Green for All, Eastyard Communities for Environmental Justice, Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy (CEED), The Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, League of Conservation Voters, Hispanic Access Foundation, San Diego 350, Hispanic Access Foundation, San Diego 350, Union of Concerned Scientists, Environmental Defense Fund, and GreenLatinos.
Below are quotes from some of the organizations supporting the Energy Resilient Communities Act:
“It is critical that communities, and especially communities that have already borne the brunt of fossil fuels’ and climate change’s negative impacts, have the power they need to save lives and boost resiliency in the face of emergencies, including the accelerating climate crisis,” said Matthew Davis, League of Conservation Voters legislative director. “We are proud to support the leadership of Reps. Barragan and Clarke to engage the targeted communities this bill would help, boost community-owned clean energy, and keep people powered with clean energy during emergencies.”
“The climate crisis and the pollution from the fossil fuels that cause it already disproportionately affect our most vulnerable communities, and the worsening hurricanes, wildfires, and floods that are striking across the country only further reveal that disparity. These communities must have access to clean, resilient energy resources. That’s why the Sierra Club is proud to support the Energy Resilient Communities Act, which begins to help address existing inequities by providing critical funding for community-based clean energy microgrids,” said Matthew Bearzotti, Sierra Club deputy legislative director.
The Union of Concerned Scientists released the following statement: “The Energy Resilient Communities Act will help make clean energy systems more accessible and economically viable for communities that have historically been overlooked and underfunded when it comes to greening the electric grid and strengthening neighborhoods against climate change. This legislation is a welcome step toward addressing persistent inequities in the development and deployment of clean energy projects, while boosting the resilience of critical infrastructure no community can afford to lose in a disaster. UCS fully supports the bill’s goal of promoting local ownership of clean energy microgrids and ensuring localities directly reap the co-benefits of their investments.”
“Climate-fueled extreme weather events — from fires in the West to hurricanes in the South and flooding in the Midwest — are incredibly destabilizing for our communities. What’s worse, the loss of power following these disasters has the greatest impact on vulnerable people: those who don’t have the means to relocate, who lose wages when their jobs close, who face food insecurity without refrigeration, and who lose access to life-saving medical equipment. Legislation like the Energy Resilient Communities Act can not only protect those with the most at stake in the climate crisis, it can create thousands of good-paying, union jobs in clean energy along the way,” said Charlie Jiang, Greenpeace USA climate campaigner.
“This bill is a bold, pioneering way to help communities suffering the confluence of fatal pollution, the climate emergency and energy violence,” said Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund energy justice director. “Prioritizing community and distributed solar systems for Black, Brown, Indigenous and other communities of color is critical to ensuring long-term community resilience and wildlife protection.”
“The Energy Resilient Communities Act will provide critical funding to create safe and resilient institutions while prioritizing investment in environmental justice communities hit first and worst by extreme weather events. Investment in clean energy microgrids will create thousands of good-paying jobs, expand energy security, and build the necessary infrastructure for communities to recover swiftly after major storm events. Climate change is here. The time for action is now. We must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and build an economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty,” said Michelle Romero, Green for All national director.
“We are already seeing the effects of catastrophic climate change in the unprecedented wildfires and storms this year,” said Nicole Ghio, Friends of the Earth fossil fuel program manager. “The only rational and appropriate response is to take action to protect our communities and end the dependence on fossil fuels that has created the crisis. We must invest in locally generated renewable energy to protect people and the planet. This legislation will help communities take control by setting up microgrids to keep the lights on and keep essential services like hospitals up and running during emergencies.”
“Caring for your family during a power loss caused by a climate induced natural disaster is a stress endured by too many mothers in California,” said Kelsey Wirth, Mothers Out Front co-founder and chair. “The creation of clean energy microgrids will ease this burden while also creating opportunities for families with new jobs, specifically those in environmental justice communities who have shouldered too large a load in this climate crisis. We applaud Representative Barragan’s work on this bill and look forward to a continued partnership in its implementation.”
“As the climate crisis worsens, we are seeing its devastating impacts on people around the world. It is time for our governments to invest in our community’s resilience. The Energy Resilient Community Act helps our country combat the climate crisis and will help to spur the clean energy economy. This bill prioritizes environmental justice for vulnerable communities and will help keep critical infrastructure running during a disaster. We are proud to endorse this bill and its goals of transitioning our electric infrastructure off of dirty energy and towards a clean, just future,” said Natalie Mebane, 350.org policy director.
“This legislation will help us confront the worst effects of climate change in a smart, equitable way,” Athena Motavvef, Earthjustice associate legislative representative for climate and energy said. “The path to a just energy future runs through the communities least likely to be able to afford the latest clean technologies — communities often also living with the worst effects of the hurricanes, wildfires, and floods climate change is causing. Earthjustice commends Rep. Barragan, Rep. Clarke and their colleagues for putting people and the planet first.”
“CEED is encouraged by the introduction of the Energy Resilient Communities Act,” said Dr. Cecilia Martinez, executive director. “This legislation addresses critical needs in environmental justice communities including building infrastructure resiliency in environmental justice (EJ) communities; funding for educational outreach; and addressing local air pollution. CEED supports engagement with environmental justice communities as a priority for federal climate and energy policy making.”
“Increasingly violent storms and out of control wildfires fueled by our climate crisis require not only rapidly deployed climate mitigation, but also a more robust and resilient grid system,” said Mitch Jones, Food & Water Action policy director. “The Energy Resilient Communities Act is a vital part of building that system. We look forward to working with Representatives Barragan and Clarke to pass this legislation as part of a strong climate package that is scaled to the crisis we face.”
“Climate-altering pollution is fueling more extreme weather and ‘unnatural disasters’ with more costly and dangerous consequences for wildlife and people,” said Shannon Heyck-Williams, National Wildlife Federation director of climate and energy policy. “We are grateful to Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán and Yvette D. Clarke for elevating the serious threats faced by frontline communities from disasters and the challenging recovery that follows. This bill will prioritize grants for exposed communities to build clean energy microgrids, which will bring cleaner air and less climate pollution while providing job opportunities and building improved resilience to unnatural disasters. These clean microgrids are vital to get hospitals and schools working quickly after tragedy, and to ensure a healthy and just future for all Americans.”
“As Latino communities continue to suffer from the pandemic, the economic slowdown it has caused, and a climate crisis that rages unabated with unprecedented wildfires and an overactive hurricane season, resilience is our overarching need. The Energy Resilient Communities Act will put our communities back to work building clean energy microgrids that improve our health while reducing the impact of climate change and ensuring that we can bounce back from whatever the future holds,” said Shanna Edberg, The Hispanic Access Foundation director of conservation programs.
Elizabeth Gore, Environmental Defense Fund senior vice president of political affairs, said, “EDF applauds Representatives Barragán and Clarke for their commitment to build more resilient communities and prioritize environmental justice through expanded investments in clean energy microgrids. By ensuring we have strong and resilient electricity infrastructure, the Energy Resilient Communities Act helps provide critical protections for communities in the face of increasingly intense and destructive extreme weather events driven by the climate crisis.”
A statement released by Green Latinos said, “The Energy Resilient Communities Act is an important step in assisting Latinx communities and other environmental justice communities – which have been overburdened by pollution for far too long – with access to resilient clean energy infrastructure that everyone deserves. Moreover, the program would create jobs and prioritize hiring workers who live in environmental justice communities, which are often low-income. GreenLatinos applauds the program as an effective part of ushering in a cleaner, more equitable future as we recover from the economic devastation of a global pandemic.”
Nanette Diaz Barragán is proud to represent California’s 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Florence-Firestone, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, Walnut Park, Watts, Willowbrook and Wilmington.