The EPA is sending millions to states and cities under the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants program. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

USA - Climate Law's $250 Million in Grants Draws Interest From States

States, cities to submit climate plans to EPA next year. States that don’t submit will see funds redirected to cities

Forty-six states, 81 metropolitan areas, and more than 90 tribes and territories opted into a federal climate grant program’s $250 million first phase, giving a chance for governments to study how to reduce emissions without relying on split legislatures.

The Environmental Protection Agency has so far distributed to 41 states and Washington, D.C., $3 million each of initial planning funds under the Climate Pollution Reduction Grants program. Smaller grants are also on their way to tribes and dozens of the country’s most populous cities.

Over the next eight months, the cities, states, and tribes will create climate action plans and submit them to the EPA. The agency will decide in spring who gets some of the $4.6 billion set aside in the second phase for implementing those plans.

The program paves the way for governors and state regulators, who can struggle against the legislatures that control their funding, to make progress on climate projects without dipping into general funds.


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“The sky’s the limit,” Rich Negrin, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, said of the program. “It has so much potential.”

State and local agencies could also relieve some of their capacity issues through the program, environmental groups say. Regulators can use the first round of funds to hire the staff needed to study climate issues, and the additional people can also help assess other opportunities for federal grants.

But the grants don’t create a blank check for every recipient. More than a dozen states have laws that restrict their agencies’ abilities to regulate more stringently than the federal government. Experts will need to “thread the needle” between impactful projects and accomplishable ones, said Justin Balik, state program director of advocacy group Evergreen Action.

Still, the program “has the opportunity to be a first of its kind catalyst for accelerating state climate policy,” Balik said.

Increasing Capacity

Given how understaffed state agencies are right now, the first round of Climate Pollution Reduction Grants program dollars will make a real impact—even if states don’t score implementation funding next year, Balik said.

Pennsylvania, whose administration aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, is hiring a workforce development director to assist with its energy transition. “I’m hiring a Director of Workforce Development at DPW for the first time,” Negrin said. “We’ve never had somebody in a role like that, so that we can help create a workforce development strategy around many of those conversations.”

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