Posts Tagged ‘ sustainability ’

Money Available for Climate Showcase Communities Grants

Here is another excellent opportunity for you to take your community to the next level of sustainability.  The EPA recently announced that it will be awarding up to $10 million for Climate Showcase Communities Grants.  These local government grants are targeted for implementing climate change initiatives.

 The types of activities that the EPA will fund include solid waste management; energy performance in municipal operations; land use, transportation or community master planning; reduction of vehicle miles travelled; energy performance in residential, commercial, agricultural, aqua cultural or industrial buildings; use or supply of green power products and renewables; natural resource management; removal of barriers for greenhouse gas (GHG)management; heat island management; and other innovative GHG reduction activities.

 The goals of the program are several.  First, the EPA is funding local government projects that reduce GHG emissions and can be replicated elsewhere.  Second, the GHG reductions must be permanent.  Third, projects should foster collaborative partnerships and emphasize the benefits of climate action.  Finally, the benefits of the projects must be showcased.

 This is the second offering of the Climate Showcase Communities Grants, following up on a successful initial program that awarded grants to 25 local governments across the United States.  Round two is funded at $10 million.  The EPA anticipates awarding grants to 20-30 communities, in amounts ranging from $100,000 to $500,000. 

 Local governments must provide a 50% match to the grants.  That means that if you request a $100,000 grant, you must provide a match of $50,000.  The match can be cash or in-kind services, such as staff time or equipment.

 This is a highly competitive grant program.  In round one, there were 444 applications.  Twenty-five were funded.  Here are some tips to make your application stand out.

  •  Read the RFP carefully.  It is located at  Make sure your strategy addresses its requirements.  This is an implementation grant, not a planning grant, although a plan that will be implemented within the three year program requirement may be considered.
  • Show clearly how you are going to measure your GHG reductions.
  • Plan to showcase your project.  Come up with innovative ways to publicize your project.  Consider using social media, incorporating photos and videos.
  • Design a project that can and will be replicated.  Consider preparing a guidebook and lessons learned documents.
  • Be creative to make your project stand out.  Consider innovative ways to use existing technology, target an under-represented sector of the population or establish new partnerships.
  • Innovate, innovate, and innovate some more.

 The EPA will want to see how your project fits into a broader framework, such as a sustainability or climate change plan.  If your community doesn’t have a plan, now is the time to prepare one—and be prepared in case there is a round three of Climate Communities Grants. 

As is now standard, all applications must be submitted through .  If you haven’t registered on that site, do it now because it can take 7­-10 days for new accounts to be processed.  Applications for Climate Community grants are due on July 26.  Get innovative, get creative and get your application submitted.

Two Things You Must Know About Sustainablity Funding

Two Things You Must Know about Sustainablity Funding Right Now

 Two important federal funding opportunities are available that require action right now.  You are undoubtedly aware that the American Power Act was introduced in the Senate on May 12.  Here are a few of the key provisions of the Act—and a notable omission. 

  • Targets have been set for the reduction of Green House Gas emissions.   By 2020, GHG emissions will be reduced from 2005 levels by 17%.  GHG emissions will be reduced by 83% by 2050.
  • A federal cap and trade program is not established, unlike the House version of the bill.
  • Annual funding in the amount of $7 billion is allocated for smart growth, natural gas vehicles and raising fuel economy standards.
  • Loan guarantees are provided to encourage nuclear power plants. 

Here’s the notable omission:  local governments.  In general, funding would be channeled to state governments.  That means programs such as the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG) would cease to exist.   The action to be taken?  Local government elected officials should contact their senators and press for modification of the Act. 

The prospects for the legislation are uncertain.  It may not be heard or acted on this year.  For more information, go to

TIGER II is an assured funding opportunity.  No, this has nothing to do with a world famous golfer by the same name.  The acronym stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery; this is the second version of the program. 

Eligible funding activities include public transportation projects, highway and bridge projects, passenger and freight rail projects and port infrastructure improvements.  Of the $600 million available, $35 million has been set aside for transportation planning, which can be used for updating zoning codes and planning transportation corridors or regional transportation systems. 

The TIGER dollars are extremely competitive.  The first round was funded at $1.5 billion and received 1400 applications that totaled well over $60 billion.  TIGER II is funded at $600 million so competition will be even tougher. 

Here a few tips to make your application more competitive, based on projects that received funding in the first round and on comments from a recent webinar featuring Robert Mariner, Senior Policy Analyst with the office of the DOT Secretary.  While TIGER II is not funded through the Economic Recovery Act, job creation is important.  Projects in the $15-40 million dollar range will be more competitive, as DOT is looking to fund 18-20 projects nationwide.  DOT is also looking to fund a mixture of modal types, although there is no set formula.  Significant long term outcomes weigh heavily in the selection process.  A thorough cost-benefit analysis is critical to success.  Matching non-federal dollars make applications more competitive.  Finally, funds must be obligated by 12/2012, so the further along in the design and environmental review process that applicants are, the more competitive they will be. 

The action to be taken?  Pre-applications are due July 16 and must be made through  It can take 2-4 weeks to be approved to apply, so it is time to get started on the application process.  For more information, go to .

Learning From Plantations

Oak Alley Plantation

Learning from Plantations:  Transportation, Innovation and Sustainability

Nine city planners.  Three vehicles.  Twenty-two pieces of luggage.  

We are off on the adventure of our traditional post-conference trip.  After 4 ½ days at the annual American Planning Association conference in New Orleans, we’ll tour Louisiana plantations and soak up the Old South.  What surprised us was how many of the principles of operating a successful plantation would provide useful planning principles for right now. 

Laura Plantation is our first stop, built in 1805 in the traditional Creole style.  The photo below shows that Laura was built above a raised basement, which was used for storage.  Second floor living and business quarters were elevated to avoid the inevitable flooding from the nearby Mississippi River. 

Laura Plantation

Our second stop is the nearby Oak Alley Plantation, shown at the top of this page.  With its majestic alley of 300 year old oak trees and its colonnade of 28 massive Doric Columns, Oak Alley is the archetypical plantation of movies. It has, in fact, been featured in Interview with the Vampire and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, among others. 

The third stop on our plantation tour was Oakley Plantation.  Oakley was founded in 1906, when Louisiana was part of Spanish West Florida.  The founders were wealthy enough to hire tutors for their children.  John James Audubon stayed at Oakley for 3 ½ months and painted 32 of his Birds of America series while he was there. 

After our plantation visits and over a glass of wine, we talked about the planning lessons we had learned during our tour.  We agreed on three principles:  transportation, innovation and sustainability.  Here’s more detail on what we learned. 

 Transportation.  All the plantations were platted in a rectangular form—long and narrow—and had frontage on the Mississippi River.  The Mississippi was the prime route for shipping and receiving goods.  A five foot dike provided some protection from flooding.  The River Road ran parallel to the Mississippi and was used for local traffic. 

Innovation.  Each plantation was a self contained unit, with gardens, livestock and a metal/blacksmith shop.  The workers of the plantation, were of course, slaves.* The skilled slaves invented tools and machinery to make the plantation function more efficiently.  They constructed the plantation houses and created beautiful, decorative cornices and ceiling decorations out of local materials:  Mississippi River mud and horsehair.  An Oak Alley slave is credited with propagating the paper shell pecan tree, which simplified harvesting the pecans.  It is a true testament to human nature, that, in the midst of inhumane living conditions, the slaves were able to draw on their creativity. 

Sustainability.  The plantation homes were designed to work with the humid south Louisiana climate and the Mississippi River floods.  The first floors were elevated.  Interior and exterior walls were 18 inches thick and made of brick to provide insulation.  Houses were surrounded by verandas and trees to provide shade.  Doors and windows were lined up parallel, from the front of the house to the back, to take advantage of breezes by using cross ventilation.  All the plantation homes were built facing the Mississippi River, not just to take advantage of the view, but to catch the breezes coming across the water.  

Water conservation was an essential part of plantation life.  Rain catchment barrels and cisterns were critical.  And to further conserve water, the plantation families bathed only once a week! 

The plantation homes were built to work with nature.  With the invention of air conditioning and value engineering, we have forgotten about the simple principles that make for affordable living, not just affordable housing. 

*Most of the plantation tours included tours of the slave quarters and explained the duties of the slaves.  Oak Alley, however, did the best job of addressing the injustice of slavery, has a monument to slaves and highlighted the innovations made by slaves.
April 19th, 2010  in City Planning, Management 1 Comment »