Please note that this call is off-the-record and closed to press.
Biden-Harris Administration Launches $1 Billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Program to Enhance Energy Systems in Rural and Remote Communities
The Biden-Harris Administration, through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), today issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public input on a new $1 billion program to improve energy generation in rural or remote communities across the country. Funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Energy Improvements in Rural or Remote Areas (ERA) program will strengthen the resilience, reliability, and availability of energy systems, helping communities unlock the public health and cost-saving benefits cleaner, more efficient energy provides. The new program reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s continued commitment to ensuring no communities are left behind in the historic transition to a clean energy future.
“For America to flourish, rural America must succeed,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.“Thanks to the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, DOE is making critical investments in energy infrastructure that strengthens the foundation of rural communities in America.”
Nearly one in six Americans live in a remote or rural community. Due to low population density and isolation from larger electric grids, these communities face higher energy costs and poor electrical reliability. Rural communities also have a disproportionately high share of low- and moderate-income families, who have limited ability to cope with high electricity costs.
The ERA program will provide federal support to rural or remote communities to:
Improve the overall cost-effectiveness of energy generation, transmission, or distribution systems;
Site or upgrade transmission and distribution lines;
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy generation by rural or remote areas;
Provide or modernize electric generation facilities;
Develop microgrids; and
Increase energy efficiency.
The Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations will manage the ERA program and is charged with identifying and demonstrating innovative solutions to make energy systems in rural or remote communities more resilient to the worst effects of climate change, while also supporting new economic opportunities and creating high-quality jobs.
DOE welcomes public input from a wide range of stakeholders, including energy project developers, utilities, community organizations, environmental justice organizations, as well as state, local and Tribal governments to shape this program. To help inform implementation of the ERA program, the RFI seeks input on the types of energy demonstration projects, programmatic design considerations, equity, environmental and energy justice and workforce and transfer of knowledge gained through ERA demonstrations to ensure that the projects selected are scalable and replicable.
DOE will host a series of in person and virtual workshops for communities and interested stakeholders to learn more, ask questions and discuss the types of projects that can improve their energy systems as they prepare to respond to the RFI.
DOE expects to announce a funding opportunity to solicit project proposals in 2023. Participation in the RFI will not affect participation in any funding opportunities or other opportunities resulting from this program.
USDA Seeking Public Comment on a New Provision to Provide Assistance to Agricultural Producers Who Have Experienced Discrimination
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is seeking public comment on how it should implement Section 22007 of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a provision that aims to provide assistance to the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA’s farm lending programs. Section 22007 provides a transformative opportunity for USDA to help farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners impacted by discrimination in USDA farm lending programs. IRA Section 22007 directs USDA to provide financial assistance to producers who have experienced discrimination in USDA’s farm lending programs and has appropriated $2.2 billion for this purpose.
“The historic Inflation Reduction Act gives USDA important tools to help provide justice to those that have been discriminated against,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These actions further build on USDA’s commitment to use all the tools it has available to help farmers. The Biden-Harris Administration is deeply committed to upholding civil rights, advancing equity, and doing right by agricultural producers, especially those who USDA’s programs have not fully served. When combined with specialized technical assistance, improved programs focusing on land access and retention, and our equity efforts, Section 22007 provides another tool to achieve our shared vision of supporting those who are willing to dedicate their lives to our nation’s food security and rural communities.”
This request for information is an important step in making sure farmers, advocates, academics, legislators, tribal governments, and other experts who have important perspectives that must be incorporated to assist USDA in implementing these provisions to fulfill the intent of Congress. Over the last twenty-five years, USDA participated in complex discrimination claims resolution processes in the Pigford, In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation (Pigford 2), Garcia, Love, and Keepseagle cases. These resolution processes raised difficult questions concerning eligibility, timeliness, standards of proof of discrimination, methods of appropriate outreach and assistance to farmers, the amounts of compensation, and the implementation of oversight measures to ensure that all contractors executed a strong process to ensure that eligible farmers received payments. USDA recognizes that farmers in these cases did not always feel that their concerns were heard or reflected in the design of the past discrimination claims resolution processes. USDA is seeking public comment on how this program should be designed and implemented because we cannot do this right without input from farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners.
The request for information asks several questions on how USDA should design and administer the program. For example, the request asks for suggestions on how USDA should use its programs, funding and authorities to encourage support for former farm lending borrowers. The request for information also asks how USDA should identify former borrowers who experienced discrimination. Additionally, the request asks what criteria USDA should use to select a third party (or parties) to administer the program. Once the comment period closes, USDA will review all comments received through the Federal Register notice and provided by the public during the three scheduled listening sessions (PDF, 140 KB). These recommendations will be considered by USDA staff as they design the final program. For more information on IRA Section 22007 and to find out how to submit your comments, please go to www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-22435.
The 30-day comment period opens Friday, October 14, and closes on November 14, 2022. USDA values your input and welcomes all comments.
USDA is aggressively implementing the provisions of the IRA to support farmers and ranchers, including: