Snapshot: State & Local Elected Officials Fight Climate Crisis with Federal Investments

The NewDEAL
4 min readJun 10, 2024

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Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash

In a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, 45 percent of American adults feel more concerned about climate change than last year. Even with this growing concern, many Americans are unaware of the progress driven by the Biden-Harris Administration. The same poll shows roughly one-quarter of respondents say tax credits and subsidies have not made a difference to people like them, while nearly 40 percent don’t know enough to have an opinion.

Yet the proof lies in their own backyards, through projects implemented by state and local elected officials. Projects, like the ones listed below, show the positive, cooperative partnership between the Biden-Harris Administration and state and local governments, connecting amorphous tax credits with cleaner air and water and good-paying jobs.

Here are five successful federal-state/local partnerships from 2024:

  1. Rhode Island Secures Nearly $50 Million for Solar Energy Access

In April, Rhode Island secured $49.3 million from the Environmental Protection Agency to increase access to solar energy. The funding, part of the Inflation Reduction Act, will democratize clean energy, providing financial assistance and aid in technological deployment, which will reduce barriers to reliable solar power access for traditionally underserved communities. The program will both reduce energy costs for thousands of homeowners and reduce carbon emissions.

U.S. Representative and NewDEAL alum Seth Magaziner (D-RI) helped lead the coalition to secure federal funding, telling The Newport Buzz that it is “an important step towards lowering household utility bills and delivering cleaner air.”

2. Massive Clean Hydrogen Facility Coming to Virginia

Topsoe, a Danish clean energy company, announced plans to build the nation’s largest SOEC, or Solid Oxide Electrolyzer Cells, factory in Virginia. SOECs are essential to producing clean hydrogen and other alternative energy sources. This project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to two million tonnes, the equivalent to removing 400,000 gas-powered vehicles from the roads per year. The historic investment, made possible through $136 million in federal tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act, will create thousands of jobs, reduce emissions, and help make Virginia a leader in a cleaner, greener future.

NewDEAL alum and U.S. Representative Jennifer McClellan (D-VA) praised this new Topsoe facility for creating “hundreds of new jobs and stimulat[ing] millions of dollars in economic activity right here in Virginia’s Fourth [District].”

3. Federal Funds Provide a Green Makeover for Memphis Zoo

A new attraction is coming to the Memphis Zoo: solar panels. Through a $670,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the zoo plans to install rooftop solar panels, provide clean energy education programs to the community, and develop a waste management plan for the city and county. This grant will advance sustainability initiatives and a clean energy future.

“Shelby County takes pride in being at the forefront of sustainable energy,” said NewDEAL Leader and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “This integration of solar panels at a beloved family attraction reduces our carbon footprint and encourages eco-friendly habits, promoting a greener future for all.”

4. Federal Funds Spur Dash of Clean Energy Projects in Wisconsin

In April, the Rural Development Wisconsin State Office received federal funds from the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that will help lower families’ energy bills, expand the domestic biofuels industry, and create good-paying clean energy jobs and market opportunities for rural Wisconsin. The 19 clean energy programs will expand farmers’ and small business owners’ use of wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower energy. This federal-state partnership, made possible with funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, will both stimulate income and lower household costs, all while advancing the clean energy transition.

NewDEAL alum and current Rural Development Wisconsin State Director Julie Lassa celebrated this massive investment in rural Wisconsin as it “not only strengthens their business, but helps sustain and build the local economy.”

5. Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson Makes the Most of Federal Climate Investments

NewDEAL Leader and Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson has been harnessing federal funds spearheaded by the Biden-Harris Administration to combat climate change and build a more resilient community.

With a boost in funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Mayor Johnson’s plan to restore Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley canal is gaining traction. Along with rezoning to support crucial industrial commercial businesses and create a buffer for residential use, this restoration would clean up the pollution in the canal and create boat launches and a waterfront walking trail.

In addition, a $12 million investment from the Inflation Reduction Act will enable Milwaukee to prune, plant, and remove trees throughout the city. The initiative will combat climate change, expand tree canopy, improve air quality, and make the streets safer for everyone.

Mayor Johnson acknowledged how these initiatives will better citizens’ day-to-day life, saying, “We’re redesigning our streets and neighborhoods and making them safer for everybody.” By leveraging these federal funding opportunities, he is using every resource available to create change in people’s own backyards.

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The NewDEAL

Leading on solutions for the new economy & making government work. Learn more at newdealleaders.org and newdealforum.org