Gallego and Watson Coleman Introduce Bill to Combat the Causes and Impacts of Excess Urban Heat
The Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act of 2022 establishes a grant program for entities to combat excess urban heat
With heat waves expected to become longer and more frequent due to climate change, Reps. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) introduced the Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act of 2022. The bill creates a competitive grant program through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide funding for eligible entities to combat the causes and mitigate the effects of excess urban heat.
“For many Americans living in high temperatures, unexpected heat emergencies are life-threatening natural disasters worsened by climate change,” Rep. Watson Coleman said. “Unfortunately, excess heat and rising surface temperatures do not receive adequate attention or response on the level of tornadoes or hurricanes. Heat leads to countless avoidable, premature deaths and disproportionally impacts communities of color and low income communities – populations that are already working with limited resources. I am proud to have worked alongside Rep. Gallego on his Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act to address the deadly rising temperatures in urban areas and give threatened communities the tools to combat and respond to excess heat.”
“Anyone who steps outside in Phoenix during the summer can attest that it is getting hotter and staying hotter for more months out of the year,” Rep. Gallego said. “In my district, a lack of shade and a high prevalence of concrete sidewalks and streets is a deadly combination in these hot summer months, and that is where mitigation efforts can make a real difference. And for the lower-income communities and communities of color that have been disproportionally impacted by urban heat and historically neglected from heat-mitigation efforts, these grants are a much-needed first step to correct the environmental injustices they have faced. That is why I am excited to introduce the Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act with Rep. Watson Coleman. With the effects of climate change growing more each year, we must do what is necessary to protect our communities.”
Excess urban heat is a phenomenon caused in urban areas due to several manmade factors including lower tree coverage, high building density, and a greater prevalence of heat-absorbing surfaces like sidewalks and roadways. In addition to being a public health threat, excess urban heat leads to increased air and water pollution as well as higher roadway maintenance, energy, and healthcare costs.
Excess urban heat is felt in metropolitan areas across the U.S. In 2020, 494 deaths were linked to heat in Arizona, alone. And according to data from the Maricopa County Department of Health, heat-associated deaths in Maricopa County have been steadily increasing for years.
“As the impacts of extreme heat on health, safety, comfort and economic development continue to rise, there is an urgent need to invest in solutions at a scale and pace that matters,” Anna Bettis, Healthy Cities Program Director for The Nature Conservancy in Arizona said. “This bill will channel urgently needed resources to communities across the U.S. to invest in solutions to mitigate heat, and importantly, requires that a sizable portion of these funds to go communities disproportionately impacted by these challenges.”
“GreenLatinos wholeheartedly endorses Rep. Gallego’s forward-thinking Excess Urban Heat Mitigation Act, which creates a crucial climate-responsive policy to mitigate impacts of excess urban heat effect,” Dr. Andrea Marpillero-Colomina, Sustainable Communities Program Director at GreenLatinos said. “Latinos are 21% more likely than the white population to live in areas that are urban heat islands. We are particularly enthused by the fact that this legislation designates at least fifty percent of funding will fund projects in low-income and environmental justice communities. As heat waves become longer and more frequent, we urgently need solutions that communities can implement now to mitigate growing challenges associated with excess urban heat; this bill achieves exactly that.”
The Act allows entities such as local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, Tribal governments, and nonprofits working with any government entities to apply for funding to implement efforts to help offset the effects of excess urban heat. Some examples of these mitigation efforts include cool pavements, cool roofs, tree planting and maintenance, green roofs, bus stop covers, cooling centers, and local heat mitigation education efforts.
Studies have shown the impact of excess urban heat disproportionally affects lower-income communities and communities of color. To address this, the Act outlines that at least 50% of funding shall be awarded to projects in low-income and environmental justice communities.
The Act authorizes $30 million for the program each year for Fiscal Years 2023-2030. To ensure the effectiveness of the grant program, HUD will establish an oversight board to select grant recipients and review the yearly progress of the grantees. Additionally, the oversight board will advise entities in coordination with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, Departments of Energy and Health and Human Services, non-profits with leadership in this area, and relevant academic experts.