New Energy Law Includes Block Grant Program

Article excerpt

On Dec. 19, President Bush signed into law a historic comprehensive energy bill aimed at moving the United States toward greater energy independence and security. The Energy Independence and Security Act (H.R. 6) passed the Senate on Dec. 13 and passed the House on Dec. 18.

Among the provisions important to cities and towns is a new $10 billion Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program. Modeled after the Community Development Block Grant program, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program would provide grants to cities, counties and states for innovative practices to achieve greater energy efficiency and lower energy usage.

These grants would fund local initiatives, including building and home energy conservation programs, energy audits, fuel conservation programs, building retrofits to increase energy efficiency, "smart growth" planning and zoning, and alternative energy programs.

As outlined in the bill, cities with a population of at least 35,000 or one of the 10 most populous cities in the state would be eligible for the block grant. H.R. 6 authorizes appropriation of $2 billion for each fiscal year 2008 through 2012. Of the appropriated amount, 68 percent would be designated for local governments (cities and counties), 28 percent for states, 2 percent for Indian tribes and 2 percent for competitive grants to local governments that were not eligible based on population or to a consortia of local governments.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who made energy policy a priority of her "New Direction Congress," said the measure was "ground-breaking in terms of what it will do in savings to the consumer, protecting the environment and providing a new direction. …