Greening the Economic Stimulus Package

President Obama has signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but the work to protect our watersheds is just beginning. An unprecedented $6 billion has been directed to the state Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds ($4 billion and $2 billion, respectively). Fifty percent of the money is going to come to the states essentially as grants, in the “form of forgiveness of principal, negative interest loans or grants or any combination of these.”

Many of you helped to push for greater support for green projects, and the result of those efforts is that “not less than twenty percent of the funds appropriated… shall be established for projects to address green infrastructure, water or energy efficiency improvements or other environmentally innovative activities.” There are also specific set asides authorized for tribal grants.

This opportunity has created challenges for both federal and state agency staff, and the dust is not nearly settled regarding how it will really work in your state. The states are now to submit lists of qualified projects to EPA headquarters by August 17, 2009 (180 days from the signing of the bill). At that time, states can claim that they do not have enough qualified projects to fulfill the set aside, and the money can be released for other projects.

Putting projects on the list for both Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds normally includes a public review process. In some states, however, the fast pace of implementing the stimulus package list may mean officials will be reluctant to include a public review.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: It is critical to communicate with the people responsible for the state revolving funds in your state to promote green projects and to insist on a public review, even with the tight timeline. To find useful project lists and the state agency staff for the revolving funds, follow this link or click here.