In honor of Earth Day, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing nearly $800 million in climate-smart infrastructure in 40 states, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. These investments will strengthen the health and livelihoods of people across rural America. They include funding for 165 projects to expand access to safe water and/or clean energy for people living in disadvantaged communities.
“People in rural America are experiencing the impacts of climate change in many ways. This includes more severe droughts, more frequent wildfires, and more destructive and life-threatening storms,” Vilsack said. “When we invest in infrastructure in rural communities, we are investing in our planet, and we’re also investing in the peace of mind families will have when kids are drinking clean and safe tap water in their homes.”
Today, USDA Rural Development is taking several actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change in rural communities.
Advancing equity in rural communities
USDA Rural Development is prioritizing projects that advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s key priorities of investing in rural communities to ensure people have equitable access to critical resources and to combat the climate crisis. Investments in these communities will make an impact for generations to come.
For example, 165 projects in today’s announcement will help advance equity in rural communities, especially in those that have been socially vulnerable, distressed and underserved for far too long.
Clean energy infrastructure and energy efficiency improvements
USDA is investing $787 million in renewable energy infrastructure in 36 states to help agricultural producers, rural small business owners and residents lower energy costs and make energy-efficiency improvements. The Department is making the investments under the Electric Loan Program and the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Through REAP, the Department is helping 157 rural businesses and agricultural producers get access to clean energy, while reducing their carbon footprint to make their business operations more cost-effective.
For example, in South Carolina, Limelight Solar I LLC will use a $2.1 million REAP loan to purchase and install a 2.5-megawatt solar system. The system is expected to produce 3.9 million kilowatt hours per year, which is enough electricity to power 362 homes in the city of Spartanburg.
The Electric Program funding includes nearly $67 million for smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security. In Pennsylvania, REA Energy Cooperative Inc. will use a $16 million Electric Program loan to connect 635 customers and build and improve 186 miles of power lines. This loan includes $6.5 million in smart grid technologies, including 35 miles of overhead fiber.
Infrastructure improvements for communities hit by severe weather
USDA is investing $12 million to help rural communities hit by severe weather. The funds will benefit people living in 17 states, the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico. The Department is making the investments under the Community Facilities Disaster Grants program and the Water and Waste Disposal Disaster Loan and Grant Program.
The funds will help communities mitigating health risks and increasing access to safe, reliable drinking water and sanitary waste disposal services. Funds also will purchase emergency response equipment to help communities be better prepared and more resilient in the face of disaster.
USDA is announcing awards through several programs today in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.