WASHINGTON, October 8 - Seven more Vermont counties have been awarded economic stimulus funding for energy efficiency and conservation projects through a block grant program created in legislation authored by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
County-specific block grants were awarded to Windham County for $130,800, Orange County for $115,800, Windsor County for $193,300, Washington County for $254,600, Chittenden County for $195,400, Rutland County for $189,700, and Addison County for $153,700. Block grants were awarded in September to Caledonia, Franklin, and Orleans Counties.
The State of Vermont and its cities and towns also were awarded $10.3 million in March under the same program.
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 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.
"The block grant program recognizes the importance of local efforts to create good-paying jobs in developing sustainable energy and promoting energy efficiency," Sanders said. "What I particularly like about this approach is that it relies on local initiatives and grassroots participation."
Sanders, along with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.), wrote a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking 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 counties, through regional planning commissions, appealed to the Department of Energy for block grant funding. The funding formula excludes the populations of cities and large towns which were eligible for their own grants.