Communities LEAP Program Helps Environmental Justice and Energy Communities Leverage Tools to Lower Energy Bills, Develop Plans for Sustained Economic Empowerment
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the inaugural communities selected as part of the Communities Local Energy Action Program (Communities LEAP), a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to help energy-overburdened communities take direct control of their clean energy future. The 24 communities will receive support from DOE to create community-wide action plans that reduce local air pollution, increase energy resilience, lower utility costs and energy burdens, and provide long-term jobs and economic opportunities. DOE’s pilot Communities LEAP reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to assist community-led transitions to a clean energy economy, and to build a healthier, more equitable, and sustainable future.
"The President committed to making a historic investment in our clean energy future and environmental justice," said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. "With today's Communities LEAP announcement, we will use the power of the Federal government, DOE's National Labs and other experts to help our communities develop clear, actionable plans to reimagine their energy future and protect the health and safety of all residents."
Communities LEAP helps communities across the nation develop place-based approaches to building the clean energy economy of the future. By providing targeted technical assistance, LEAP will open the door for communities to access significant, additional DOE and other federal government programs, including those included in the $1.3 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Communities LEAP also implements the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 commitment, which aims to ensure that federal agencies deliver at least 40% of benefits from certain investments to disadvantaged communities and advances the work of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, which focuses on delivering federal investment to hard-hit energy communities.
“Communities across the country must be able to take advantage of these historic investments in clean energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, and clean transportation,” said Mitch Landrieu, White House Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator. “Technical assistance programs like Communities LEAP will help ensure these communities are prepared for the many funding opportunities available from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as we transition to a clean energy economy.”
The transition to a clean energy economy lowers local air pollution and energy burdens and is also poised to bring billions of dollars in continued investments to communities across the country while generating good-paying jobs. In 2019, renewable energy investments in the U.S. reached $55 billion and clean energy jobs paid 25% more than the national median wage. Workers in clean energy earned a median hourly wage of $23.89 compared to the national median wage of $19.14.
The 24 selected communities will work with DOE and its network of technical assistance providers, government and non-governmental partners, community-based organizations, utilities as well as environmental justice, economic development, and equitable investment organizations to develop roadmaps for clean energy economic development pathways. The inaugural Communities LEAP localities will pursue strategies for planning and investment in:
- Energy efficient buildings and beneficial electrification
- Clean energy development
- Clean transportation and enhanced mobility
- Carbon capture and storage
- Critical minerals recovery
- Resilient microgrids and energy storage
- Manufacturing and industry opportunities
The selected communities are:
- Alachua County, Florida
- Bakersfield, California
- Birmingham (North Birmingham), Alabama
- Bridgeport, Connecticut
- Columbia, South Carolina
- Columbia Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Oregon, Washington, Idaho
- Duluth, Minnesota
- Hennepin County, Minnesota
- Highland Park, Michigan
- Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska
- Jackson County, Illinois
- Kern County, California
- Lawrence, Massachusetts
- Louisville, Kentucky
- Mingo & Logan Counties, West Virginia
- Minneapolis, Minnesota
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Pembroke Township and Hopkins Park, Illinois
- Pittsburgh (Hill District), Pennsylvania
- Questa, New Mexico
- Richmond, California
- San José, California
- Seattle (Beacon Hill), Washington
- Stockton, California
“Tribal communities must be included in the urgent fight to combat the climate crisis through innovative strategies that protect health, generate jobs and reduce utility expenses,” said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). “I’m gratified the Columbia Inter-Tribal Fish Commission has secured this federal investment for its members in Oregon and the Northwest.”
“DOE’s Communities LEAP program gives much-needed assistance to traditional energy-producing communities who have been hit the hardest by the energy transition,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “The federal investment announced today will help drive new economic opportunities and support new and good-paying jobs in coal communities in West Virginia. As always, I will continue to advocate for policies and funding that will revitalize communities across the Mountain State and ensure they have the tools they need to build a brighter future.”
"In the years since the closure of the Questa Molybdenum Mine, local leaders in Questa have worked incredibly hard to transform their community into a real model for sustainable economic development and diversification,” said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM). “In the last decade, the Village of Questa has become a gateway community to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and helped local, clean energy-powered businesses like Taos Bakes grow their manufacturing base. I'm excited to welcome this major investment to help Questa plan for future growth and continue its momentum as a leader in the clean energy economy."
“We’ve seen firsthand how air pollution and environmental challenges can devastate communities in Michigan and across our country. Transitioning to a more energy-efficient and sustainable economy will not only lower costs but put communities on a stronger path to success,” said U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI). “This assistance will help Highland Park reach its sustainable development goals – such as mitigating harmful air pollution that has long-impacted the community – while creating jobs in the process and helping revitalize neighborhoods.”
“I commend the Department of Energy for their decision to provide support to Questa and other communities across the country to create new, good-paying clean energy jobs,” said U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM). “These investments will empower Questa to address the climate crisis and create economic opportunity, and I’m proud to have the DOE as a partner in my efforts to bolster our local economies.”
“Many families in the Beacon Hill community rely on oil to heat their homes, which contributes to the fossil fuel related pollution and poor air quality already disproportionately impacting the community," said U.S. Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA-09). “The technical assistance provided through this DOE program will help these community organizations led by El Centro de la Raza convert homes from oil furnaces to electric heat pumps, expand weatherization services, and ensure that every community member, regardless of language or culture barriers, is reached. It is crucial that the federal government prioritizes support for low-income communities and communities of color to make the clean energy transition.”
“This vital federal investment will strengthen Lawrence’s transition toward a clean energy system that improves the lives of everyone who calls this city home,” said Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA-03). “Not only will this assistance reduce the strain on the city’s budget to overhaul its energy supply chain, but it’ll also create good paying jobs for Lawrence residents and help lower families’ utility payments in the years and decades to come. I’m grateful the Department of Energy chose to prioritize communities like Lawrence that may otherwise struggle to afford important initiatives like this.”
“From its deep Hispano roots to the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains in its background, the Village of Questa is a pillar of Northern New Mexico,” said U.S. Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM-03). “Today’s DOE announcement recognizes the unique economic and environmental challenges Questa has faced, and it will support community-driven clean energy opportunities and partnerships.”
“I am thrilled that New Orleans will be included in DOE’s first ever effort to support communities in the transition from fossil fuels to a cleaner, greener, more renewable future,” said U.S. Congressman Troy A. Carter, Sr. (D-LA-02). “Technical issues can be some of the biggest barriers communities face as they work to reduce air pollution, lower energy costs, increase reliability, and create jobs. Today’s technical assistance award from DOE will allow New Orleans the skills and technical support it needs to comprehensively move toward a more sustainable, resilient, and equitable future that doesn’t leave anyone behind.”
Learn more about the selected communities announced today. To find community-driven energy support for remote and island communities, visit the Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project or explore how DOE’s Energy Storage for Social Equity Initiative (ES4SEI) is empowering urban, rural, and tribal disadvantaged communities to get on a path towards community prosperity. The ES4SE recently announced the selection of 14 underserved communities to receive technical assistance to leverage energy storage as a means of increasing resilience and long-term affordability.