BlogCommunity Benefits and Labor Standards

“Winning the win” with Community Benefits Agreements! How can we set Appalachia up for success?

By January 3, 2023September 18th, 2023No Comments

By Natalia Rudiak

Natalia Rudiak is the Director of Special Projects for ReImagine Appalachia

Here at ReImagine Appalachia, we know that widespread community input on sustainable development projects leads to widespread buy-in, which can reduce bureaucratic obstacles and increase positive impact of public investment down the road. Community Benefits Agreements (also known as CBAs or Community Benefit Plans) are legal agreements to get everyone –  labor organizations, racial justice groups, environmental entities, faith communities and other local stakeholders – to work together and sign off to ensure the benefits of government dollars are optimized in our communities. For example, “benefits can include commitments to hire directly from a community, contributions to economic trust funds, local workforce training guarantees and more.” *

* from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Impact and Diversity Community Benefit Plan Toolkit

While we encourage all private-public partnerships to have CBAs in exchange for public support for a private project, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) has required Community Benefit Agreements as a precursor to applying and receiving federal funding for certain funding streams. Specifically:

“Community Benefits Plan are intentionally flexible to generate the best approaches from applicants and their partners. Plans should be specific, actionable, and measurable. They are scored at 20 percent of the technical merit review of proposals. These 20 points are split into four intersecting sections that work together to ensure project success, the efficient and effective use of taxpayer funds, timely implementation of projects, and the acceleration of private sector uptake in projects funded by the BIL [Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021.] Specific asks for Community Benefits Plans may vary due to the range of project types. For example, large demonstration and deployment projects will require the most robust plans.”

U.S. Department of Energy Office of Impact and Diversity

Clean Energy Infrastructure Community Benefit Plan: Frequently Asked Questions

While we don’t know which funding streams will yet be impacted, when they are announced, we want to make sure that our communities are ready to hit the ground running. We know that everyone needs to be on the same page: local governments, labor unions, racial justice organizations, faith leaders, community groups, local residents, the most vulnerable among us – virtually everyone and anyone who could benefit from a new clean manufacturing facility, climate-friendly transit initiative, or any energy infrastructure project. 

To that end, ReImagine Appalachia and Fair Shake Legal Environmental Services, are planning an ongoing set of materials and a robust event in May of 2023 to make sure that as a united community we all understand: 

  • What is a community benefits agreement? How is it beneficial?
  • What are best practices to create a CBA to maximize its benefits?
  • How can we set ourselves up for success?
  • How to include local groups who have not been traditionally included?
  • How can we expand visions of what is possible when negotiating with big players at the table? 
  • And more!

We welcome you and/or your organization to help with our planning efforts for our materials and this event! Please fill out this form and let us know where you think your help would be most useful. We look forward to continuing this conversation with you!