Uplifting the Justice40 Initiative in Iowa

posted by Guest Blogger on Thursday, March 30, 2023

Solar Light ParkAs the climate crisis continues to present unprecedented challenges, recent federal investments in climate action also present tremendous opportunities to build a more adaptive and resilient future. At this time, we must recognize and address the inequitable burdens the climate crisis places on marginalized and disadvantaged communities. These communities have historically been underserved or damaged by government policies and underinvestment in transportation, housing, water service, public health, and others.  

In early 2021, the Biden Administration launched the Justice40 Initiative, which is a whole-of-government approach to ensure that federal agencies work with states and local communities to direct 40% of the overall benefits from certain federal climate and clean energy programs to marginalized, over-polluted, underserved and disadvantaged communities. 

To help identify these communities, the White House Council on Environmental Quality launched an interactive map called the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. Using the tool, census tracts are identified as disadvantaged under the following conditions:  

IF the census tract is above the threshold for one or more environmental indicators.

AND the census tract is above the threshold for the socioeconomic indicators.    

Agencies that manage covered programs must perform these three actions in adherence with the initiative: 

  1. Identify the benefits of covered programs 
  2. Determine how covered programs distribute benefits 
  3. Calculate and report on reaching the 40% goal  

The Justice40 Initiative will be prioritized in the allocation of federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). These bills provide opportunities for communities to turn big ambitions into visible progress. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law in November 2021 which will put $1.2 trillion into community infrastructure projects over the next decade. This will be the first opportunity for the Biden Administration to implement its Justice40 Initiative by investing in communities that have been most impacted by climate change and to support a transition towards clean energy and away from fossil fuels.  

EV ChargingThere are already actions underway involving IIJA investments in Iowa. Last fall, the Iowa Department of Transportation considered Justice40 in the Iowa Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan by incorporating the location of these communities as criteria for the priority scoring of interchanges when identifying potential future electric vehicle charging sites. The law also expands funding for Iowa's Weatherization Assistance Program, which helps reduce energy costs for underserved communities by improving energy efficiency in their homes.  

Additionally, $638 million is allotted to the state over five years to improve water infrastructure and guarantee clean drinking water. This includes $45 million annually being dedicated to lead service line replacement. This is the largest investment in clean drinking water and the first-ever dedicated federal funding to replace lead service lines.  

Solar RooftopIn August 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law which marked a historic investment in domestic energy production and manufacturing, with a goal to reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030. The package includes about $370 billion in energy and climate-related spending – representing the single largest federal investment to combat climate change in history. The IRA includes investments in environmental justice, which includes establishing several new environmental justice grant programs. This act builds upon the historic investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and advances the Justice40 initiative.  

It is crucial that Iowans know about these opportunities and how to provide input as these investments begin to trickle into the state. The Iowa Environmental Council is proud to join other Iowa organizations, agencies, and communities committed to driving infrastructure investments to help Iowans benefit from the vision of Justice40. As you hear about opportunities to provide input and guidance on infrastructure spending for your community and our state, we encourage you to make your voice heard in support of this important initiative.  

To find more resources about Justice40 and other federal funding opportunities in Iowa, visit iafederalfunding.org/justice40-initiative.

About the Author

Sonita van der LeeuwSonita van der Leeuw served as a Clean Energy Field Organizer from 2021-2022 and now works as the Transportation Organizer for MN 350. During her time at IEC she helped to expand on the state’s clean energy movement through community engagement, outreach, and education. Sonita has experience in environmental education, environmental advocacy, and public outreach, along with a deep commitment to environmental justice.

  1. electric vehicles
  2. energy efficiency
  3. environmental justice
  4. federal funding
  5. inflation reduction act (ira)
  6. jedi
  7. racial justice
  8. resiliency

About The Author

IEC is pleased to welcome guest bloggers on a number of different topics throughout the year. If you are interested in submitting a blog piece to IEC, contact us at iecmail@iaenvironment.org.