How Local Governments in the US Are Developing Climate Plans

Billions of federal dollars are flowing to states that have submitted climate action plans

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Every Monday, in “Climate on the Ballot,” we pass along a topic to help you integrate climate into your newsroom’s campaign reporting. Consider sharing this newsletter with your colleagues on the politics beat. Vea la versión en español de “El clima en la boleta.”

This Week: Local Climate Action Plans

The Environmental Protection Agency will soon be sending $4.6 billion in grants to states, Tribes, and local municipalities to implement climate action plans locally. The Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) program is one of the biggest pots of money available in the Inflation Reduction Act. Nearly every state — plus DC and Puerto Rico — has submitted climate action plans to the EPA, which will award grants between $500 million and $2 million for specific projects later this year. For journalists, following the money is sure to yield plenty of local story ideas.

Reporting Ideas

  • Report on the climate plan for your state, metro area, territory, or Tribe. All of the proposed climate action plans (submitted by 45 states, 70 cities and metro areas, four territories, and over 200 Tribes) are available for download from the EPA website. Only five states — Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Wyoming (after its governor pulled the state’s application) — declined the funding and chose not to submit plans. However, cities and metro areas in all five states submitted their own plans. If you report from one of those states, ask your state-wide officials why their state opted out.
  • Dig into your area’s “climate priorities.” Different regions have different needs, and so the plans include a variety of programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in many sectors, including transportation, buildings, electricity, and waste. Interview climate experts and find out what’s innovative, ambitious, or lacking in the plans. Are the emissions reduction areas targeting the right sectors for your region or state?
  • Which plans do a good job of addressing key community needs? One of the criteria that the EPA will use in assessing projects is how well they “advance environmental justice and benefit disadvantaged communities,” as directed by the Justice40 Initiative. These might include investments in workforce development, environmental justice for communities plagued by pollution, and plans for engagement with disadvantaged stakeholder communities.
  • How did states developing their first-ever climate plans do? Climate plans submitted by 23 of the states “represent the first meaningful climate action planning effort since at least 2018,” according to the Rocky Mountain Institute, and for some, including red states such as Alabama, Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi, and Nebraska, this is the first time a climate plan has been initiated.

Take Inspiration

  • The Rocky Mountain Institute “read 6,795 pages of state climate plans” and produced this comprehensive overview of what they found.
  • When Wyoming governor Mark Gordon told the EPA that his state wouldn’t be applying for the CPRG program, the Northern Arapaho Tribe and City of Cheyenne submitted their own plans “seeking money for solar panels, emissions cuts and expenses reductions,” reports Inside Climate News.
  • In states such as Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, the funding is “especially meaningful” for climate action-oriented governors with state legislatures that won’t fund climate action projects, notes Heatmap.
  • El Paso, Tex., submitted its first climate action plan to the EPA in March. El Paso Matters interviewed the city’s climate chief to talk through the feedback she received from the community in crafting it and what projects it includes.

Spotlight Piece(s)

Bloomberg Green’s Olivia Rudgard and Jess Shankleman detail London mayor Sadiq Khan’s ambitious climate action agenda that he pledges to continue advancing in his historic third term in office, which began last week.

Also, for tips and tricks on localizing climate for your newsroom, watch a recording of this week’s CCNow Talking Shop webinar, “Telling the Climate Story Locally,” moderated by CBS News and Stations’ national environment correspondent David Schechter.