Part Three: The Inflation Reduction Act in Public Power Communities: A Case Study Series

Case 3: Lansing, Michigan

Climate Cabinet Education

 

For the last two weeks, Climate Cabinet Education has focused on how public power leaders for cities and towns could leverage the climate benefits provided under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Now, it’s time to focus the conversation on how the IRA can help city leaders invest in their communities, follow through on and fund equity commitments, and advance environmental justice.  

 

In conversations about climate policy that are oriented around greenhouse gas emissions or power plants, the communities most affected by climate change and the burdens of our energy system can be glossed over or completely ignored. Community organizers and environmental justice advocates have worked for decades to draw attention to this oversight, and build power for justice. Thanks to their efforts, some cities are starting to address inequities associated with historical fossil fuel based development, redlining, energy burden, unequal access to the benefits of clean energy, and more. 

 

Since the start of the Biden Administration, there’s been a much needed uptick of coordination between city and federal government partnerships. At the federal level, the Biden Administration began the Justice40 initiative, which sets a goal to use 40% of certain federal funding for marginalized, underserved, and environmental justice (EJ) communities. The IRA – in pursuit of meeting Justice40 goals – contains several environmental justice and low-income targeted provisions. These provisions, as well as many others within IRA, can be utilized at the municipal level to advance and prioritize EJ goals.

 

The City of Lansing, Michigan is an example of how the IRA can help a city follow through on its equity and justice goals in policy across city sectors – making it the third case study in Climate Cabinet Education’s “The Inflation Reduction Act: A Guide for Leaders of Public Power Utilities” guidebook.

The City of Lansing adopted a Climate Action Plan in 2020 that focused on city facilities and expanded operational capacity for exploring future climate action. The Sustainability Action Plan then followed in 2022. The City has a goal in line with the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions 59% by 2030. To meet this threshold, the City works with the city’s municipal utility (the Board of Water and Light) to invest in distributed energy resources at municipal properties and to set clean energy goals as part of the utility’s resource planning process 

 

But, the partnerships don’t end with emissions goals. The goals set forth in Lansing’s Sustainability Action Plan stretch across several city departments and rely on valuable coordination with community-based organizations – especially to meet their environmental justice goals. 

 

As a part of Lansing’s Sustainability Action plan, each of the following areas is prioritized and given particular EJ considerations: energy efficiency, renewable energy, mobility and transport, conservation and protection of water resources, land use, and materials management. The table below explores how IRA funds can potentially be used to address Environmental Justice concerns associated with 5 of those 6 focuses of Lansing’s Sustainability Action Plan.

Table showing which IRA programs could support the City of Lansing’s EJ goals – set by its Sustainability Action Plan – throughout its government.

 

In addition to existing customer outreach efforts to connect assistance programs to those who need them, the new Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants can be used to develop community-based programs and organization partnerships for customer outreach. This program would help the utility identify specific community needs. This new setup would not only begin to solve long-standing injustices, but it would also begin to create trust between customers and the city government – achieving the overall goals set by Justice40.

 

Next week, we’ll take a look at Climate Cabinet Education’s final case study, Seattle, where proactive climate action has the community navigating the next frontier of the clean energy transition: electrification.