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Senator Markey Introduces Legislation To Support Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Development

Senator Edward J. Markey Introduces Legislation To Support Climate-Resilient Infrastructure Development

Washington (July 29, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chair of the Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today introduced the Local Infrastructure Funding & Technical Assistance (LIFT) Act, legislation to address a crucial roadblock in the federal effort to create a next generation of resilient climate infrastructure innovation by providing investment in catalytic local predevelopment projects—tasks that need to be completed before construction and outside investment can occur on infrastructure projects. The LIFT Act would provide grants to economic development districts, Indian tribes, cities and states, institutions of higher education, and non-profit organizations to cover market assessments, community engagement, site acquisition, and permitting costs – the steps that precede construction that can often stymie completion of climate-smart infrastructure.

Equity provisions included in the legislation would ensure these investments support community-driven projects and reach historically disinvested communities and those with the greatest need. The LIFT Act would direct at least 50 percent of all investment to underserved communities, and grants would be further prioritized for projects that are implemented by entities with leaders from underrepresented backgrounds, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, increase climate adaptation and resiliency, result in major public health improvements, and help modernize communities.

“If we are to pass an historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure and climate-readiness that benefits those who need and deserve it most, it is not enough to simply make funding available for basic infrastructure—we must simultaneously empower all communities to access that funding,” said Senator Markey. “With relatively small public investment, the LIFT Act would unlock local capacity and private capital to ensure that all communities can apply for and utilize complex federal grants and leverage private funds, paving way for a revolution in climate-ready infrastructure development driven by the communities that need it the most.”

A copy of the bill text can be found HERE.

The legislation would provide a total of $15 billion in grants up to $500,000 through the Economic Development Agency (EDA) for project predevelopment and technical assistance—projects that will leverage $16-20 in economic benefits for every dollar spent. The grants would be distributed through the Economic Adjustment Assistance Program.

“Local communities know what they need to build resilient futures. They’re closest to the problems, and they’re closest to the solutions, but the lack of access to project predevelopment funding can kill a great project before it has the chance to thrive,” said Michelle Moore, CEO of Groundswell. “It’s infrastructure’s version of the “valley of death,” and it disproportionately impacts communities that have suffered from disinvestment and underinvestment. The LIFT Act builds a bridge to a more resilient and equitable futures and helps to connect the transformative potential of Federal infrastructure investments to the local communities that know best how to put them to good use.”

“We’ve seen the same pattern for far too long, well-resourced projects that already have pre-development funding get to the finish line. And we’ve also seen hugely impactful community projects get stalled for lack of pre-development funding. I’m so excited to support the LIFT Act, because it will bring more equitable access to federal funding by providing pre-development dollars to those who need it most,” said Anne Evens, CEO of Elevate.

"For far too long, frontline communities have borne the infrastructure, environmental, and health burdens of energy projects. We need to prioritize climate-friendly investments in low-income communities and communities of color to correct that trend and ensure our country's transition to a clean energy economy is truly just. Under Senator Markey's leadership, the LIFT Act will provide critical predevelopment funding to support the community engagement, technical assistance, and workforce development projects needed to bring resilient infrastructure to frontline communities and achieve our vision of an equitable future clean economy,” said Peter Rothstein, Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) President.

“The LIFT Act will be a game-changer for communities under the most serious threat from climate change. Frontline communities – frequently low-income communities of color -- suffer first and worst from escalating climate impacts that pile on top of longtime disparities in wealth and resources. Those disparities have left the communities that need investments the most with the least capacity to successfully apply and compete for capital funding,” said Emi Wang, Associate Director of Capacity Building at the Greenlining Institute. “The LIFT Act helps to bridge this gap, providing critical investments to support the community engagement, planning, capacity building and technical assistance needs of frontline communities across the country.”

“As Congress considers historic investments in infrastructure, it's critical that we fund resilient infrastructure to withstand future flooding and ensure that all communities start on a level playing field. Before a project can begin, a number of pre-development planning and design steps have to occur that have enormous implications on both the quality of the project and whether it will even be considered for federal funding,” said Melissa Roberts, Executive Director of the American Flood Coalition. “Investing in pre-development is essential to building high-quality infrastructure for communities across the country, particularly small, rural, and historically underserved communities on the frontlines of all kinds of flooding.”

“As Congress debates new proposals to fund and finance resilient infrastructure across the United States, the need has never been greater for catalyzing community-level infrastructure projects to ensure that the future pipeline of these projects are shovel-worthy,” said Dan Carol, Center for Financial Markets, Milken Institute.Our research finds that predevelopment capital is acutely needed to help under-served and rural communities create investment-ready projects and attract sidelined impact capital that wants to invest in U.S. infrastructure, but cannot find enough investable projects due to this technical assistance gap.”

“As a community engagement consulting firm, we want economic development districts, Indian tribes, cities, and states, institutions of higher education, non-profit and front-line organizations to be in a strong economic position to capitalize on our outreach expertise. This will enable them to effectively leverage the opportunities to amplify their missions of impact,” said MaKara Rumley, Founder and CEO of Hummingbird. “Organizations with access to federal funding can create the legacies of change critical to positively impacting underserved, underinvested, and underrepresented communities. We support this problem-solving policy that will invest in our nation's infrastructure and create a resilient future.”

“When we see large-scale projects take shape throughout our communities, we pay attention to the construction jobs and the post-development impact. But we often overlook the predevelopment dollars that have flowed into the community long before the ground is broken. It's those dollars that enable a solid foundation for equitable development. The LIFT Act can help reduce barriers and provide a pathway for those closest to the issues and who have the best solutions,” said Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer of Partnership for Southern Equity.

“Underinvested and underserved communities are on the front lines of the climate crisis, disproportionately harmed by a worsening climate. The LIFT Act will ensure that the infrastructure updates necessary to stay safe reach the communities that need them the most, and that those communities have access to the resources and capacity to shape the development process with the right set of priorities. Supporting predevelopment is key to making effective and equitable use of historic infrastructure investments, and I am thrilled to see the impact the LIFT Act will have in our community,” said Maria Belen Power, Associate Executive Director of GreenRoots, Inc.