WASHINGTON, September 9 - Three Vermont counties were awarded economic stimulus funding for energy efficiency and conservation projects through a block grant program created in legislation sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
Vermont's first county-specific block grants include $128,900 for Caledonia County; $115,200 for Orleans County; and $195,600 for Franklin County. Sanders said he expects most Vermont counties will receive funding under an Energy Department program created by legislation he sponsored.
Sanders, chairman of the Senate environment committee's Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee, authored legislation that established the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. The State of Vermont and its cities and towns have already been awarded $10.3 million in funds through this program. Sanders estimated that more than $1 million more will go to Vermont counties.
"This funding will support local efforts to tackle our serious energy challenges. It provides federal recognition of grassroots efforts to cut fossil fuel emissions, improve energy efficiency, and move us toward such sustainable energies as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass," Sanders said. "I truly believe that there is infinite potential in the new program."
The grants may be used to update building codes to require construction of energy-efficient homes and businesses, retrofit old buildings with newer technology, utilize alternative energy, and create incentives for residents to car pool or ride buses.
Sanders, along with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.), wrote a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu to ask him to reverse a regulatory decision that initially excluded counties in New England states.
In response, the department established a process for counties and "county equivalent" bodies, such as regional planning commissions in Vermont, to seek these funds. Vermont's 10 most populous counties, through their regional planning commissions, appealed to the Department of Energy for block grant funding.