For months after its enactment in mid-2008, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) was an empty promise, a legal shell with no funding. Now, with $3.2 billion in funding from ARRA, the program can start sending grants to community-based initiatives aimed at greater energy independence and climate protection.

Under the grant program, 68 percent of the monies will be made available to cities, towns and counties with populations of 35,000 or more; 28 percent will go to states; 2 percent to tribal programs, and the remaining 2 percent will be available for competitive grants to local governments that do not meet the minimum population requirement. Projects that are eligible for EECBG funding include traffic signal and streetlight replacements with energy efficient technologies, facility weatherization, window replacements, alternative fuel purchases, and building energy audits, says Washington-based National League of Cities Senior Legislative Counsel Carolyn Berndt. "The thousands of [EECBG-eligible] projects that cities and counties undertake and complete will demonstrate why locally led, community-based solutions are a [wise use of federal money and a] critical pathway for achieving the nation's energy and climate goals," says U.S. Conference of Mayors Executive Director Tom Cochran.

Austin, Texas, is lining up its plans to apply for EECBG funding to complete projects that will help the city meet its goal of eliminating carbon dioxide emissions from all municipal activities by 2020, says Ed Clark, spokesperson for the city-owned utility Austin Energy. "We have a citywide committee looking at overarching city projects [for which EECBG funding can be used]," he says.

Annie Gentile is a Vernon, Conn.-based freelance writer.

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