To date, we have tracked $41 billion of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding awarded to 63 different climate programs. This includes over 5,200 projects and 81 awards. In this article, we shed light on five lesser-known programs we are tracking in the Climate Program Portal that you may have missed. With a total funding allocation of over $15 billion these initiatives represent a vital part of the broader effort to combat climate change.
Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Grants
On September 25, 2023, the Department of Transportation (DOT) published project summaries for 68 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) awardees. This amounted to over $1.4 billion of grant awards distributed to projects across 36 different states. Eligible uses of CRISI funds include deployment of rail safety technology, development planning, and infrastructure improvements that facilitate ridership/and or reduce congestion on railroads. The two largest FY22 CRISI project awards are the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s Six Grade Separations in the City of Shafter Project and the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority’s Franconia-Springfield Bypass Project, each with a respective allocation of $202 million and $100 million, totaling about 20 percent of the year’s awards. According to a news release from the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the Shafter Project will build grade separations to separate rail lines from automobile and pedestrian traffic. This is part of a long-term initiative to build out an electrified high-speed rail system in the State of California. Initiated in 2015, the project will result in an 800-mile rail system connecting San Francisco to the Los Angeles Basin. The CRISI award also provides half of the funding for the Franconia-Springfield Bypass Project, which promises to reduce congestion on the RF&P Subdivision, improving rail efficiency between Washington, DC and Virginia.
Conservation Stewardship Program
IRA made available an additional $850 million for various programs administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in FY23, including $250 million for the Conservation Stewardship Program. This funding is part of the $19.5 billion of IRA funding allocated to the Service; however, it should be noted there are limits to the NRCS activities eligible for IRA funding. Applications for NRCS programs are open year-round, with state-specific deadlines for each funding cycle. CSP, the largest federal conservation program, assists farmers in the implementation of conservation practices on their land. It covered 68 million acres of land in 2020, down from 72 million in 2018, when the program switched to a capped dollar-based funding system. CSP payments to farmers have decreased by $2.6 billion since 2018 and demand for funds far exceeds supply as only 25 percent of applications result in funding. The top five states by FY22 CSP funding were Texas, California, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Iowa. Though CSP contract data is not readily available, USDA maintains a playlist of videos portraying the 70 conservation methods (known as “enhancements”) promoted by the program. Examples of such enhancements include fuel breaks for controlling fires, Integrated Pest Management, and water control structures.
U.S. Postal Service Clean Fleets
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) relies on a fleet of 190,000 mail trucks, each running almost daily. This concentration of similar vehicles driving set routes presents a great opportunity to reduce emissions on the road through electrification. In February 2023, USPS awarded contracts to acquire 9,250 Ford E-Transit electric mail trucks and deploy 14,000 charging stations at USPS facilities. The Postal Service is expected to spend $3 billion of IRA funds on vehicle decarbonization as it procures a 75 percent electric fleet of 66,230 Next Generation Delivery Vehicles (NGDVs) over the next five years. Initial investment in design and delivery of these vehicles cost $482 million. Analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists anticipates co-benefits in the form of air quality improvements and infrastructure development opportunities in communities that may otherwise be left out of the first waves of EV infrastructure investments. The Ford E-Transit NGDVs secured by this funding award are manufactured in Kansas City, Missouri.
Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program
Nuclear is the largest source of clean electricity used in the United States, accounting for a fifth of the nation’s electricity generation. Next-generation nuclear plants promise to provide nuclear electricity with less waste products and at a lower risk of meltdown. IIJA earmarked nearly $2.5 billion for the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) to support the demonstration of advanced nuclear reactors through industry partnerships. Unlike other nonrenewable sources of energy, nuclear produces no air pollution, making it an essential element of a low-carbon electrical grid. IIJA authorizes $2.5 billion of awards under ARDP fund the demonstration of X-energy Xe-100 pebble bed high-temperature gas reactors and a TerraPower Natrium plant, featuring a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast-reactor and energy system design capable of powering 400,000 homes. Both reactor designs are meltdown-proof and capable of “load following” to accommodate the intermittency of renewable energy generation. With a capacity factor (percentage of time spent at peak energy output) of 93 percent, nuclear is by far the most reliable energy source available. Projects featuring each reactor are expected to be operational by the end of the decade.
Carbon Dioxide Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program
This program funds the planning and execution of large-scale infrastructure projects that enable the transportation of carbon dioxide from point sources (carbon capture) or ambient air (direct air capture) for industrial use or permanent storage. Stakeholders in Michigan, Texas, and Georgia received $3 million each to carry out feasibility studies for regional carbon dioxide transportation systems. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, transitioning to clean energy alone will not be enough to stabilize global temperatures; mass deployment of carbon dioxide removal will be necessary. Regional carbon transport infrastructure will be a critical component of a carbon removal system, making future projects more efficient and scalable. Read our past Spotlight on Federal Support for Carbon Capture to learn about IIJA and IRA investments in carbon capture. This funding was announced alongside $242 million “to support the development of new and expanded large-scale, commercial carbon storage projects”.
There is much more to do for implementation as 87 percent of funds we track on the Climate Program Portal remain unawarded or unallocated. Check out the Opportunities and Outcomes dashboards to keep up with federal climate awards and funding announcements.