Shoring Up Our Vulnerabilities — Resiliency in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

Cityfi
4 min readAug 11, 2021

Resiliency is an easy word to use but less easy to define. It indicates both the capacity to “bounce back” after a momentary setback and to endure a more persistent challenge or hypothetical future harm. The pending Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act converts the theory of resiliency into reality. The entire bill and its respective funding targets all intend to make the U.S., in part, more “resilient.”

Practically, however, there are distinct facets to resiliency. The types of investments that are signaled by the legislation fall into distinct categories that represent the specific measures our national leadership is taking to prepare for the challenges ahead. State and local governments, businesses, and civic organizations, serving together as the implementing partners of those forthcoming investments, should carefully trace these facets of resiliency to best match the available new funds to their local priorities.

Below is a classification of the resiliency measures presented in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This taxonomy will help stakeholders navigate newly available funds as they seek to shore up existing vulnerabilities.

Resource Protection and Environmental Remediation

Restoring damaged lands, waterways is critical for collective population health and well-being.

  • Water Infrastructure Standards: The largest ever investment in clean drinking water through abatement of lead pipes/lines is a prominent and highly publicized element of the Act.
  • Brownfields and SuperFund Clean-up: The deal invests $5 billion in addressing legacy pollution at these sites.
  • Well and Mine Closure: Funds will be available to cap wells and mines, especially in areas that are economically challenged where the threats to safety, health, and environment are high.
  • Pipeline Safety: $1 billion is designated for the “Natural Gas Distribution Infrastructure Safety and Modernization Grant Program” to improve the distribution network of existing fossil fuels lines that currently degrade ecosystems and cause human fatalities. This will involve pipeline leak prevention, detection, and various safety installations.

Mitigation of Imminent Natural and Man-Made Catastrophe

Our existing exposure to climate change and its accelerating effects make future disasters unavoidable. With that said, their impacts might be dampened with technology and proper planning. Similarly, our current energy, trade, transportation systems contribute to immediate and large-scale disasters. Anticipating the types, intensity, and frequency of those events, the bill sets aside funds specifically for dealing with the “known, knowns”. A few examples include:

  • Wildfires: The bill invests $8 billion in wildfire risk reduction by providing funding for community wildfire defense grants, mechanical thinning, controlled burns, the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program, and firefighting resources.
  • Floods: The bill invests $12 billion in flood mitigation including funding for FEMA flood mitigation grants, in addition to improving mapping and data of high-impact zones. The legislation will also make it easier for low-income families to buy flood insurance, which is key to a speedy recovery.
  • Pipeline Infrastructure: A large tranche of funds is set aside to address risks posed by fossil fuel pipeline operations, namely, especially in disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately impacted.
  • Disaster Preparedness/Planning: Emergency response strategies, disaster planning, development of evacuation routes, modernizing community shelters, etc.

Hardening of Existing Infrastructure

The Bill also takes into account the assets we have. The nation’s existing and vast array of physical and social infrastructure offers much latent value, but requires urgent servicing and attention due to years of underinvestment. Funding here will help confront threats by both climate and nature, as well as adversaries.

  • Eliminating Maintenance Backlogs: Roads and bridges, making due repairs to public transit, and winterizing the power grid as well as elevating buildings, roads, and mass transit to anticipate flooding
  • Home Weatherization: $3.5 billion in the Weatherization Assistance Program, reducing energy costs for more than 700,000 low-income households by increasing the energy efficiency of their homes, while ensuring health and safety
  • Cyber Security: Importance and urgency of strengthening U.S. cybersecurity capabilities, with particular focus on protecting the energy grid

Innovation and Scale for Infrastructure of the Future

Committing substantial funding and effort towards the development of net new infrastructure will enable the nation to better manage the likely adversities of water, food, and fuel shortages; air quality degradation; and forced mass migration. Furthermore, acting now in offsetting measures will reduce the force of these threats.

  • Establishing the Grid Deployment Authority: Scaling clean energy transmission by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines, invests in research and development for advanced transmission and electricity distribution technologies
  • National EV Charging Network: $7.5 billion to build out the first-ever national network of EV chargers in the United States
  • Clean Energy Research: Development of advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture, and clean hydrogen
  • Electrifying School Buses: Reducing emissions and pollution contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as childhood respiratory illnesses by electrifying school buses

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Cityfi

Cityfi advises cities, corporations, foundations and start-ups to help catalyze change in a global, complex urban landscape. Twitter: @teamcityfi