The Loma Prietan - May/June 2009

Cool Cities

Aims of Cool Cities, Federal Funds Converge

$3.2 Billion Available to Local Governments

by Coryne Tasca

Cities and counties now have access to $3.2 billion of federal funding appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The act provides money for energy efficiency and conservation programs under the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG).

The EECBG program supports projects that accomplish four key objectives: Reduce total energy use and fossil fuel emissions; improve efficiency in energy-intensive sectors like transportation and buildings; spur economic growth; and create or retain jobs. Projects that may be eligible include residential and community building energy audits, renewable energy projects, efficiency retrofits, transportation programs designed to conserve energy, material conservation and recycling, greenhouse gas capture and use, and energy efficient traffic signals and street lighting. Additional projects are also possible, at the discretion of DOE. Funds are not restricted to projects in governmentowned facilities.

The objectives of the EECBG program overlap considerably with those of the Cool Cities Campaign and the Club's Economic Recovery Principles. These Principles include reducing energy consumption in local government, reducing operating costs for public entities, creating jobs, making local businesses more competitive, providing transparency and accountability to the public, and helping consumers and households save money.

The DOE will distribute nearly $2.7B of the EECBG funds to cities, counties and states through formula grants. Of this amount, $1.9B will be issued to city and county governments meeting eligibility standards. Cities must have a population of at least 35,000 to be eligible; counties must have a population of at least 200,000. An additional $54M will be issued to Indian tribes.

The remaining $770M of the $2.7B will be issued to all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. California is scheduled to receive $49M. States must then grant at least 60% of that funding to local governments that were not eligible for direct funding. Each state decides individually how to allocate this money.

The balance of EECBG funding ($455 M) will be issued through competitive grants, the criteria for which are still to be determined.

EECBG and Cool Cities

The Club's Cool Cities Campaign is gearing up to take advantage of the EECBG program. Started in 2005, the Cool Cities Campaign empowers residents to work with local government to plan and implement smart energy solutions. The Campaign is focused on developing practical energy solutions that work at the local level and provide models of success for other communities.

Cool Cities is working to educate members and local governments about the EECBG process. It has recently released "Bringing Recovery Funds Home: An Activist Toolkit for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants." The toolkit provides step-by-step instructions for members to encourage local governments to seek EECBG funds and tackle climate and energy issues on a local level. There is also discussion about recovery funds in the Campaign's website Forum.

The toolkit identifies four primary steps members could take to help their cities seek funds:

Understand Opportunities and Processes for your Local Government. This includes determining which of the EECBG pots of money best applies to your city.

Have Project Ideas Ready. A key objective of the EECBG program is to support projects with measurable results and long-term impacts.

Take Action. Once members have a clear idea of how EECBG funds might be used in their city, they should work with local officials to encourage participation and communicate ideas.

Share Stories. Cool Cities believes that the exchange of ideas will help establish best practices and keep members connected.

Coryne Tasca is a Chapter member, Cool Cities San Jose Team Member, and serves on the Loma Prietan editorial board.