A pathway to community-centered DAC

Reimagining the future of direct air capture

Image: Sam Orellana

Community recreational spaces

Housing

Privately-owned public spaces

Policy recommendations

DAC projects that embrace robust community participation and leadership at all stages will require diverse stakeholder involvement and multidisciplinary expertise. Through collaborative initiatives among federal agencies and community-based organizations, the federal government can provide the expertise, finance, and safeguards needed to facilitate the development of DAC projects in communities that are interested in hosting them. The following recommendations provide a starting point for policymakers.

Prioritize funding for community-led energy projects, including negative emissions technologies like DAC

The Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act, or LIFT America Act, is a template for how we can flip traditional energy funding on its head to rebuild infrastructure. Rather than providing funds to project developers to site infrastructure in communities, LIFT America provides funds and technical assistance directly to communities and municipalities to build the infrastructure that meets their own, self-determined needs. Moreover, the bill requires that contractors pay employees prevailing wages and use domestically manufactured materials. The provisions found in LIFT America may serve as a model for future policy on community engagement, support, and participatory design of negative emissions technologies.

Leverage cross-agency collaboration to elevate community-driven DAC projects

Equitable deployment of DAC at scale will require robust community engagement protocols and practices. While most of the programs for DAC to date have been established within DOE, strong collaboration between various agencies and communities will be needed to fully address the human dimensions of these projects.

  • Direct the Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and National Science Foundation (NSF) to outline and report on public safety implications and other local impacts of DAC. A joint report from DOE and EPA would help increase public awareness, acceptance, and participation in community-driven DAC projects — and help develop guidelines and best practices for future deployments.
  • Establish a joint program between DOE, NSF, EPA, and the Department of Labor (DOL) to facilitate local capacity building and improve community-government feedback programs. Growing workforce training and education efforts on climate and carbon removal solutions can help return power to communities, position community members to evaluate infrastructure being considered, and support them in making informed, long-term decisions for future development. Funding should be provided for programs in adult education, vocational training, youth workforce development, and more to support community development — with increased investments at local tribal colleges, minority serving institutions (MSIs), historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and state community colleges. Further, collaborating agencies should create a program that helps interested communities learn about DAC, participate in the design process, provide ongoing feedback, and obtain relevant training and skills in preparation for potential job opportunities.
  • Expand the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Program to include grants for co-created DAC projects. These block grants from HUD assist state and local governments in neighborhood revitalization, housing rehabilitation, and community and economic development efforts. In consultation with DOE, HUD should create Community Development Block Grants for integrated and co-created zero-carbon energy and carbon removal projects, including DAC. These grants should support a community-driven vision to weave DAC infrastructure into existing initiatives for neighborhood revitalization and improved community spaces.
  • Create federal interagency guidance for the development of Community Benefit Agreements and Project Labor Agreements for DAC projects. As municipalities finance and co-design the development of DAC facilities in their jurisdiction, opportunities arise to design legal agreements establishing how DAC will address site-specific needs. In these contexts, community benefit agreements (CBAs) and project labor agreements (PLAs) may be helpful tools to codify a shared understanding of the financial, employment, and educational benefits to which communities are entitled. While these legal agreements are novel to DAC, they have proven crucial to the development and community support of large-scale wind and solar projects. DOE, HUD, and EPA should jointly issue guidance for the development of these CBAs and make it available for public comment to ensure that input from both community organizations and DAC developers is appropriately reflected.

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