It was a quiet week for council without meetings, and a relatively quiet one on my mayoral calendar as well. I will take this opportunity to talk a little bit about my work on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Local Government Advisory Committee.
I was appointed to this committee in the fall of 2021, and now serve as the Vice Chair. I was absent from Council on October 23rd because I was attending the monthly meeting of the LGAC in person in Madison, Wisconsin. The committee comprises mayors, councilors, commissioners, state and regional directors from 34 local governments across the country. There are three of us currently from the northwest; two from Washington and myself.
The committee provides recommendations to the EPA on specific issues, or charges. In 2022, we focused first on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In late 2022 and into this year, we worked our way through recommendations on the Inflation Reduction Act. In both cases, our task was to provide insight to the EPA into considerations that would ensure the most effective use of these enormous, one-time federal dollars at the local level.
As you may know, the Inflation Reduction Act has two buckets of funds for addressing climate change, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund and the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants. These are structured differently and use different pathways for investing in climate solutions. I will just say that our committee’s recommendations reflect consistent themes about the roll-out of these federal dollars. We have consistently recommended that as much as possible federal dollars that are intended to be used locally should be directly allocated to local governments, without passing through state agencies. We have also consistently requested that technical assistance be provided to local and Tribal governments to facilitate local decision-making about eligibility and proposed projects, as well supporting implementation and metrics in tracking the use of funds. The Biden Administration has issued a corollary framework called “Justice 40” that stipulates that 40% of funds need to be directed toward underserved communities. That makes capacity building and support systems even more critical.
In this latest round of recommendations, the committee tackled the question of our built environment and land use laws. We suggested mechanisms and pathways that would help local governments determine where and how their choices about housing construction and transportation can yield the greatest benefit in terms of greenhouse gas reductions.
As you read this, I hope it sounds sort of familiar. The city of Eugene began this journey in the Envision Eugene process to align our future growth to respond to the dual challenges of population growth and climate change. We have refined those visions in subsequent planning documents including the Transportation System Plan, the Housing Implementation Pipeline, and the Climate Action Plan 2.0. We bring a lot to the table at the EPA; and it is an extraordinary opportunity for our city to have an impact on how these legacy federal dollars are distributed, not only to Eugene and Oregon, but across the country. I often say that even though we are not the biggest city in the state, we are one among many cities our size across the country. Our experience is shared and magnified in settings like the EPA LGAC. What we are doing matters.