One element that appears throughout the funding opportunities covered in the BIL is equity.
“I am extremely excited that equity is embedded throughout the law in a variety of different programs and activities,” said Heather Martin, senior lead equity consultant for the WSP Equity Center of Excellence. “Whether it’s the Healthy Streets Program, water assistance, lead reduction in drinking water, low-emission buses and public transit funding, projects should increase accessibility and create benefits for underserved, marginalized and disinvested communities.”
The signature program related to equity is the $1 billion Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program to address the harms of legacy infrastructure, particularly highways that were constructed through communities of color.
“We've already seen equity action plans released from all of the federal agencies calling for internal review of their own internal practices and programs to identify and correct inequities,” Martin said. “It will identify actions they could take to increase equity within their own agencies and within their programs and projects.”
The law and its funding is an important step in implementing Justice40, an initiative that aims to deliver 40 percent of the overall benefits of federal investments in climate and clean energy, including sustainable transportation, to disadvantaged communities.
The Council for Environmental Quality recently released a beta tool called the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool that is being used to identify disadvantaged communities, which is available for public review and comment.
“Another trend we're seeing influenced by Justice 40 is contract equity,” Martin said. “State and local governments and transit agencies are interested in increasing participation on infrastructure projects from historically underutilized businesses, to increase benefits returning to disadvantaged communities.”
In January, WSP launched its Equity Center of Excellence to bring a closer focus on equity within WSP to assist clients and evaluate ways to incorporate equity into various business processes and project prioritization.
“This is something that we are very excited and proud to launch, as we bring together all of the equity practitioners that we have throughout WSP,” Martin said.
Next Up: The BIL and Highways, Bridges and Electric Vehicles
(Note: These program details are updated through mid-July 2022.)
UN Climate Change Conference (Nov. 6-18)
WSP is all in for the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference (COP27) this year in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The firm’s delegation is working in close collaboration with the UN Climate Champions team and numerous partners, including the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure, Resilience Rising, Resilience First, the Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
WSP is helping shape the discourse and presenting on a wide range of topics — the future of funding the net-zero transition, realizing infrastructure’s resilience dividend, mainstreaming nature-based solutions and integrating green infrastructure into grey — and supporting the Resilience Breakthroughs implementation labs across the spectrum of impact systems: food & agriculture, water & nature, human settlements, oceans and infrastructure.
Learn more about how WSP is activating its engagement at COP27, hybrid events you can register to attend, and the distinct suite of capabilities that make WSP a leader in climate, resilience & sustainability: https://www.wsp.com/en-us/campaigns/cop27
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