Fact Sheet on Economic Progress from the IRA from the White House. Solar installations made possible by the IRA.

August 25, 2023

By Ramona du Houx

Speaking of solutions to the climate crisis, EPA Administrator Michael Regan discussed environmental justice, with The Root before the Black Economic forum.

In that interview he said: “I’m proud to say that the EPA has taken on the leadership role for this administration, really centering justice and equity in every single thing we do.”

Regan talked about the Biden administration’s signature legislative achievements on environmental justice, including the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Communities that have long born the disproportionate impact of pollution and have not had a seat at the table will now have over $3 billion to invest in solutions that have plagued their communities,” said Regan.

At the conference, Regan stressed the ways in which this funding is also a massive economic opportunity for Black Americans.

As a part of the Inflation Reduction Act, the administration is investing $27 billion in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund — aimed at investing in climate and environmental solutions.

“It’s really important that Black entrepreneurs, Black business, Black executives understand that there is an economic opportunity here,” he says. “There is a significant opportunity to grow our communities and create tens of thousands of jobs along the way. So it’s an exciting time.”

As the first African American to lead the EPA, Regan says he’s proud to use his life experience to advance equitable solutions to fighting climate change.

From Jennie Romer, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Pollution Prevention, Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP):

“I’ve always been passionate about the environment, even as a child growing up in California. The landscape has since changed, and as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Pollution Prevention at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), I’m grateful to be a part of this pivotal moment in climate action and innovation.This month marks one year of progress implementing President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the most ambitious climate law in U.S. history.  

“In just one year of implementation, EPA is moving further and faster than ever before to protect people and the planet by taking major steps to reduce emissions, build a clean economy, lower energy costs for American households and businesses, create good-paying union jobs, and advance environmental justice across the country.  The $350 million investment from the Inflation Reduction Act is a game-changing investment in the Agency’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from construction materials and EPA is turning this opportunity for a healthier future into a reality.  

“As part of these efforts, EPA is developing a new set of programs that will provide grants, technical assistance, and tools to help states and Tribal Nations, manufacturers, institutional buyers, real estate developers, builders, and others to measure, report, and substantially lower the levels of embodied carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use, and disposal of construction materials and products.

“They will also build upon EPA’s work in the ENERGY STAR Industrial Program and the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program, among others, to protect human health and the planet.During this first year of implementation, we’ve engaged hundreds of stakeholders from industry, academia, nonprofits, state and local governments, and Tribes in conversations to understand the opportunities and obstacles to substantially reducing carbon in construction materials. 

“And we’ve fostered critically important efforts throughout the public and private sectors to further improve data quality so that we can have an accurate and verifiable picture of the embodied carbon in specific materials as we prepare to make these investments available.I’m reminded of these opportunities and progress on my daily walk to work. Instead of just seeing city buildings and construction in front of me, I see growth and opportunity to transform how we build healthier communities from the ground up. From buildings to roads, we have a great future with the innovations taking place in the development of construction materials focused on reducing embodied carbon, which can help minimize the impacts of climate change across the country.

Big Issues Require Big Solutions

Steel rebar installation at a construction site.

“Construction materials account for 11percent of total annual greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and the federal government is the world’s biggest purchaser of construction materials. Roadways, buildings, and other vital infrastructure built with federal funds account for approximately 32 percent of construction-related embodied emissions in the United States.The Long-Term Strategy of the United States (pdf) highlighted the critical key climate target of reducing GHG emissions to 50-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

“The Federal Buy Clean Initiative, a White House-led Buy Clean Task Force, coordinated interagency efforts to send the first Federal signal for lower embodied-carbon construction materials – such as steel, concrete, asphalt, and glass – that are made in America with union jobs. We are enabling more than $4 billion in federal government purchasing (pdf) of substantially lower embodied carbon construction materials.

“With strong provisions to reduce embodied carbon from construction materials, the Inflation Reduction Act represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to collaborate across sectors to reduce climate pollution.

“By cleaning up procurement supply chains and reducing emissions from our built environment (human-made environment), we’re also assisting American communities and companies in transitioning to a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable future.At EPA, we’re collaborating with our government partners and industry experts to substantially lower emissions that result from that $630 billion in annual federal spending and create an environment for market transformation to lower embodied carbon construction materials nationally.

“We’re planning to use all the tools in our toolbox, including grants to assist manufacturers in reducing, measuring, and reporting their embodied carbon, as well as a new labeling program.Through this work, we’re using the power of federal government spending to send market signals and catalyze the growth of a more sustainable marketplace for construction materials, which will mean significant climate impact reductions.

Looking Forward

Concrete pouring at a construction site. 

“As we start year two Inflation Reduction Act-related implementation, I’m thrilled about the opportunities we are taking on. Through broad stakeholder engagement, we continue to learn many insights on everything from which construction materials our efforts should focus on, to the way we improve data quality and availability, to how we engage with and support state-based, municipal, and tribal Buy Clean Initiatives.

“This feedback continues to influence how we build out technical assistance for distributing grants, design our carbon labeling program, and implement an engagement strategy that ensures a continued focus on meeting the needs of our partners in industry, government, and the nongovernmental space.We will soon issue a call for applications soon and distribute the first set of grants supporting industry in improving data quality and reporting, aimed at better tracking embodied carbon in construction materials.

“As the adage goes, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. This accurate and verifiable data is essential in reducing climate pollution. I am proud to be supporting the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate agenda by developing new programs and tools to combat climate change and prevent pollution. This coming year is sure to be even more impactful and, most importantly, will further support communities across America.”