The Enviornmental Protection Agency Sets First-Ever Drinking Water Standard for Forever Chemicals  

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, setting limits for five so-called ‘forever chemicals found in drinking water.  These manufactured chemicals are used and found in various products including nonstick cookware, waterproof products, food packaging, and stain-resistant clothing and carpets. The substances are nicknamed “forever chemicals” because they barely degrade and are nearly impossible to destroy, so they can linger permanently in air, water, and soil. They build up in humans and animals and have been linked to increased risk for some cancers, immune system deficiencies, decreased fertility, and other health complications. It can be assumed that most people across the United States have had some level of exposure to PFAS due to their widespread production and inability to break down in the environment, though exact numbers of exposure are unknown.  

Final Rule Sets First Ever Limits on PFAS

 While there is no scientifically “safe” level of the most toxic PFAS – perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) – the new rule sets legal limits at four parts per trillion for both compounds. The rule sets limits at 10 parts per trillion for PFNA, PFHxS, and HFPO-DA (GenX Chemicals). The rule also sets a limit for mixtures of any two or more of four PFAS: PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX. Public water utilities will have three years to complete samplings for the regulated substances. If PFAS levels are found to exceed these new standards, utilities will be required to notify the public and implement solutions to reduce PFAS in their drinking water within 5 years.  

According to EPA, the new standard will reduce PFAS exposure for approximately 100 million people, preventing thousands of deaths and reducing tens of thousands of serious illnesses. EPA estimates that between 6-10% of the 66,000 public drinking water systems subject to this standard will need to take action to reduce PFAS. However, the rule provides flexibility and does not specifically dictate how water systems must remove these contaminants. 

The Cost of Reducing and Eventually Eliminating PFAS

EPA has estimated it will cost water utilities approximately $1.5 billion annually to comply with the rule, though utilities maintain that the costs could be twice that amount and are worried about how to fund it. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies estimates place rule requirement costs well above $3.5 billion annually to treat and dispose of the forever chemical. States and local governments have successfully sued some manufacturers of PFAS for contaminating drinking water supplies, but the settlements awarded to municipalities have been dwarfed by the costs of cleaning up the chemicals, municipal officials have said. Industry executives say taxpayers will ultimately foot the bill in the form of increased water rates. Public health advocates have said the costs of the new rule were outweighed by the growing body of evidence of the dangers posed by PFAS. 

EPA Announces $1 Billion in Funding to Address PFAS

In addition to the final rule, EPA announced nearly $1 billion in FY24 funding through IIJA to help states and territories implement PFAS testing and treatment at public water systems and to help owners of private wells address PFAS contamination. This is part of a $9 billion investment through IIJA to help communities with drinking water impacted by PFAS and other emerging contaminants. An additional $12 billion is available through IIJA for general drinking water improvements, including addressing emerging contaminants like PFAS. Overall, IIJA provides $50 billion to EPA’s water programs. Of that amount, $5 billion is appropriated to the EC-SDC grant program to which annual appropriation is $1 billion for each fiscal year from FY2022-2026. These funds are available through EPA’s Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities (EC-SDC) grant program providing states and territories with grants to public water systems in small or disadvantaged communities to address emerging contaminants, including PFAS. Grants are awarded non‐competitively to states and territories. FY2024 allotments have already been announced. The financing programs delivering this funding are part of the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which set the goal that 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that have been historically marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. 

Established as a noncompetitive grant program, eligibility to apply for and receive funds is limited to the fifty states and Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. States will use this funding to make grants to eligible emerging contaminant projects and/or activities in small or disadvantaged communities. Eligible projects include efforts to address emerging contaminants in drinking water that would benefit a small or disadvantaged community on a per household basis; technical assistance to evaluate emerging contaminant problems; programs to provide household water-quality testing, including testing for unregulated contaminants; local contractor training; and activities necessary and appropriate for a state to respond to an emerging contaminant. Additional support for implementation of BIL funding can be found through EPA’s Water Technical Assistance Programs.These programs have been launched in collaboration with states, territories, Tribes, and community partners.  

NARC encourages regional councils to take full advantage of the technical assistance provided by the EPA, and to serve a leading role in the coordination and implementation of ED-SDC funding to disadvantaged communities. 

Additional Resources 

NARC will continue to monitor updates in Washington and how this final rule will impact regions and the communities you serve.  

The Future of the Affordable Connectivity Program

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), created under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), is a benefit program through the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that helps households afford access to broadband, which is now a necessity for work, school, healthcare, and more. Benefits within the program include a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.

Data Shows the ACP Program is Critical for Enrolled Households

More than 23 million households are enrolled in the ACP. Data released by the FCC shows that before the ACP was implemented, 68% of these households had inconsistent or zero connectivity. The program is critical in providing affordable broadband to residents, especially in rural areas, who did not previously have adequate high-speed access. In rural areas, 53% of survey respondents reported having zero connectivity or relying entirely on mobile service prior to being enrolled in the ACP. This data shows that the ACP is essential for building capacity within regions, particularly in rural or hard to reach areas.  

Regional Councils Support an Extension of the ACP Program 

Regional councils, economic development districts, and councils of governments are supporters of the ACP and the programs’ ability to bridge current gaps in connectivity and accessibility. Most recently, the Land of Sky Regional Council Board of Delegates unanimously passed a resolution at its February 28 meeting to support the extension of the ACP. Land of Sky Regional Council (LOS) is a multi-county, local government, planning and development organization serving the greater Ashville region in western North Carolina. LOS has a long-standing history of helping community members in the region gain access to an affordable internet connection. LOS launched WestNGN to create more digitally connected communities across their region. These communities, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, have historically been underfunded and had poorly accessible digital connectivity. WestNGN has worked to close the significant gaps in broadband service and affordability to improve surrounding communities’ access to vital services. Federal and state programs like the ACP program have helped support broadband expansion in their region. 

The ACP Program Has an Uncertain Future in the Nation's Capital 

If additional funding from Congress is not provided, the last month for enrolled households to receive full benefits will be April. The FCC has begun taking steps to “wind down” the ACP as the funding nears close to running out. According to FCC’s ACP Wind-Down Fact Sheet, ACP applications and enrollments are no longer being processed as of February 8, 2024, however, households who have been receiving benefits prior to February 8 will continue to receive them until funds run out. The FCC is expecting significant service disruptions if the ACP ends. According to survey data, 77% of ACP households say losing their ACP benefit would disrupt their service by making them change plans or drop internet service entirely.  

The future of the ACP will be decided March 22, the deadline lawmakers set to pass the final six spending bills, including funding for the FCC. The delay in the appropriations process funding key federal programs like ACP has forced FCC to turn away Americans seeking service under the program, as demonstrated by the February 8 deadline for new applicants. Jessica Rosenworcel, Chairwoman of the FCC, remarked on the importance of Congress allocating additional funding for the program. Rosenworcel stated, “The monthly subsidy is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.” In the Administration’s supplementary budget, a request of $6 billion is included for the ACP. In January a bipartisan bill, H.R. 6929, the Affordable Connectivity Program Extension Act of 2024, was introduced. The bill would provide $7 billion for the ACP. No further action has been taken on the bill, leaving the future of ACP uncertain as Congress continues to negotiate appropriations. 

Additional Resources 

Regional Councils Leading Public Rollout of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration manages and administers the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program (CFI Program), a competitive grant program created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The CFI Program aims to strategically deploy publicly accessible electric vehicle (EV) charging and alternative fueling infrastructure in the places people live and work, urban and rural areas alike, in addition to along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs). CFI Program investments will make modern and sustainable infrastructure accessible to all drivers of electric, hydrogen, propane, and natural gas vehicles. The BIL provides $2.5 billion over five years for the CFI program. 

This program provides two funding categories of grants:  

  • Corridor Charging: To deploy electric vehicle charging and hydrogen/propane/natural gas fueling infrastructure along designated alternative fuel corridors. 
  • Community Charging: To install electric vehicle charging and alternative fuel in locations on public roads, near schools and parks, and in publicly accessible parking facilities. Community Charging grants prioritize rural areas and low-and moderate-income neighborhoods with low ratios of private parking or high ratios of multiunit dwellings. 

 The first round of CFI Program funds was recently awarded, providing $623 million in grant funding to 47 applicants, with approximately half of the funding going to 36 community projects, including two Tribal projects, and the other half to 11 corridor recipients.  Five awardees are councils of governments that will provide charging infrastructure in their regions.  

For a full list of grant recipients, click here. 

Five NARC Members Among Grant Recipients

The San Joaquin Council of Governments was awarded a $15,000,000 EV charging community grant to expand electrification for all in San Joaquin County. San Joaquin County plans to install 74 Level-2 and 40 DC fast chargers at 20 locations countywide. The project significantly expands public charging infrastructure in disadvantaged communities and implements a robust community outreach and workforce development program. 

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) was awarded a $6,120,067 EV charging community grant for a Transportation System Electrification Strategy that Works for Everyone – Community Element. ARC plans to install 300-400 electric vehicle charging ports across metro Atlanta and will focus on underserved communities to support equity in the region’s EV transition. 

Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) was awarded a $4,245,267 community grant for their Regional Charging & Fueling Infrastructure Proposal (2023). MACOG plans to fill gaps in electric vehicle charging infrastructure in rural areas and disadvantaged communities in the region.  

Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) was awarded a $15,000,000 community grant for their Northeast Ohio Regional Electric Vehicle Charging Station Program: Phase 2. NOACA began Phase 1 of its Regional EV Charging Program to implement 40 stations around the region in 2023.  Phase 2 builds off of Phase 1, and includes approximately 63 more sites in Northeast Ohio, including the city of Cleveland and the surrounding counties of Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, and Medina. 

North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) was awarded both a community grant and a corridor grant. NCTCOG received a $15,000,000 community grant to Implement the North Texas Equitable Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NTx–EEVI) Project. They also received a $70,000,000 hydrogen corridor grant for the Texas Hydrogen and Electric Freight Infrastructure (Tx–HEFTI) Project 

NARC congratulates all participants and winners of DOT’s Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Program. These local communities and organizations are filling local charging needs and gaps enabling wider EV adoption across the nation.  

Looking Ahead: A Half Century of CDBG 

Next year, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program will celebrate 50 years of supporting local community building programs such as infrastructure, economic development, housing, and disaster recovery. Since its establishment, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has helped communities across the nation address the most pressing challenges facing residents. While HUD’s programs have evolved over the years, its core functions—providing assisted housing, promoting responsible homeownership, ensuring fair housing, and fostering community development—remain unchanged. Essential to these core functions, CDBG provides annual grants on a formula basis to states, cities, and counties to develop healthy urban communities by providing affordable and accessible housing, a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities. 

The CDBG program grows local economies and improves the quality of lives for low- and moderate-income citizens. Over 1,200 jurisdictions receive an annual allocation of CDBG funds. Nationally, over 7,200 rural, suburban, and urban communities have access to CDBG funds. Communities use CDBG to respond to current and emerging community development needs, including job creation, affordable housing development, improvement of existing housing stock, the delivery of services, and the development of infrastructure improvements.

CDBG Coalition

The CDBG Coalition represents a network of 33 national organizations across various sectors including elected officials, state and local government agencies, non-profit organizations, and advocates. The Coalition supports the growth of the CDBG program and its mission to improve infrastructure, housing, public services, and economic development in underserved communities. 

Coalition members have planned events and activities that highlight the various aspects of CDBG throughout 2024. As a coalition member, NARC will partner with HUD, the Administration, and Congress to share in the accomplishments of the past 50 years and get this celebration underway. 

Looking forward to 2024, a different aspect of the CDBG program will be celebrated each month: 

February – Briefing for Congressional offices 

March – CDBG public services activities focus 

April – Community Development Month 

May – Public infrastructure activities focus 

June – Housing activities focus 

July – Economic development activities focus 

August – CDBG anniversary celebration 

September – Disaster recovery focus 

October – Acquisition & planning activities focus  

November – CDBG Coalition report highlighting the past and future of the program. 

Despite a significant return on investment, CDBG program funding levels have dropped for almost all states in the past 30 years when adjusted for inflation. The CDBG Coalition will continue its engagement with Congress to advocate for increased funding in FY25 and beyond. 

For more information about the coalition click here 

How Regional Organizations Use CDBG

Regional organizations help organize local efforts to utilize CDBG funds by providing technical support to communities who seek funding. 

  • The Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC), in coordination with the State of Utah’s Housing and Community Development Division, administers the CDBG Small Cities Program for the region. Examples of 2022 projects that applicants in the region worked on include administration and planning, advanced metering infrastructure, Pilot Peak Water Line, home buyer assistance, and sewer equipment.  
  • The CDBG program is widely used across the regions in Texas with the Community Development Fund being the largest category in the state’s program. Funds are available biennially through competition in each of the 24 state planning regions. Most regions use CDBG funds for public facilities such as water/wastewater infrastructure, street and drainage improvements and housing activities.  
  • The Centralina Regional Council assists with the administration of CDBG in North Carolina by operating as an extension of local government staff to run a full grant program. Centralina assists with project development, application preparation and submission, grant administration, and project implementation for communities eligible to compete for funding.  
  • The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) applies for and administers CDBG grants for member communities, while also facilitating cooperation between members to increase the amount of funding received and improve its efficiency.  

NARC Wants to Hear from You!

NARC wants to hear from members who help their local governments access this funding. Please fill out the following survey to help us better understand which programs your organization leads or allocates to member local governments. 

Additional Resources:

Now is the Right time for Solar!  

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) supports local solar energy leadership and is a proud partner of SolSmart. SolSmart is a solar energy designation and technical assistance program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that helps prepare communities for the solar energy transition at the local level. 

SolSmart offers no-cost technical assistance from a team of national experts that work with communities to identify local priorities and strategies to help make solar energy more affordable and accessible for residents and businesses. Successful communities are awarded the designation of SolSmart Bronze, Silver, Gold or the newly developed Platinum designation. SolSmart designated communities across the U.S. recognize solar energy as a resource offering a multitude of benefits, including savings on energy bills, opportunity for economic development, and local job growth. To date, more than 500 local and regional governments have achieved SolSmart designation across 43 states, representing more than 109 million people. 

SolSmart Program Expanded for 5 Additional Years

This year, the U.S. Department of Energy and the SolSmart team expanded the program to help 500 additional communities adopt nationally recognized solar best practices. That includes awarding outstanding solar leaders the new Platinum designation and ensuring that at least 200 of the new designees are communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution, in accordance with the Justice40 Initiative. If your community has already earned SolSmart Bronze, Silver, or Gold, you can also level up to a higher level of designation. 

Now is the Right Time to Engage in Solar Programing

In addition to SolSmart, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $7 billion competitive grant opportunity that will support the expansion of solar programs serving low-income and disadvantaged communities. Through the Solar for All program, up to 60 grants will be awarded to states, territories, Tribal governments, municipalities, and nonprofits.  

For many SolSmart communities, this could be an opportunity to build upon and accelerate work already underway. As described in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO): “Solar for All grantees will provide subsidies and other financial assistance to residential rooftop and residential-serving community solar projects in and benefiting low-income and disadvantaged communities in addition to project-deployment technical assistance such as workforce development, community outreach, and other project-deployment support (e.g., interconnection technical assistance, siting and permitting support) to help overcome barriers to solar deployment.” 

This federal investment could be an incredible opportunity to expand solar access for low-income residents in your community! Whether you choose to apply directly, form a coalition with other communities or organizations, or coordinate with a state-led program, we encourage all SolSmart communities to consider how to take advantage of this exciting opportunity. 

Read the complete Notice of Funding Opportunity here. Applications are due September 26, 2023. All Applicants must first submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) expressing their intent to apply. The deadline for the NOI was on July 31, 2023 at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) for states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; August 14, 2023 at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) for territories (specifically, The Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), municipalities, and eligible nonprofit recipients; and August 28, 2023 at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) for Tribal governments and Intertribal Consortia. (see Section I.F.: Required Notice of Intent of the FOA for more detail). 

Need More Information?

Visit SolSmart.org to learn more and request a consultation. For additional information, the SolSmart Program Guide is an excellent, comprehensive guide that provides an overview of SolSmart and contains descriptions of the criteria, community examples, templates and other resources. 

Want to get started with SolSmart? Join us! 

NARC Presents the 2023 Regional Leadership and Achievement Awards

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) presented its 2023 Leadership and Achievement Awards on Tuesday, June 6, 2023 during an awards ceremony held at the NARC 57th Annual Conference & Exhibition.    

“As President, I am thrilled and overjoyed to congratulate the exceptional award winners,” said NARC President Jennifer Robinson, Council Member of Cary, NC and board member of Triangle J Council of Governments. “Their remarkable achievements not only inspire us all, but also reinforce the boundless potential of our commitment to regionalism. Their dedication, talent, and unwavering commitment to excellence are the true pillars of success.”

Nine projects received 2023 Achievement Awards and six regional leaders received 2023 Leadership Awards. More information about this year’s recipients can be found below.


ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

Oregon Cascades West Council of GovernmentsSeamless Transit Project
Within the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments service area, there are eight unique transit agencies that provide public transit service within and across the region. Each agency has its own individual website with corresponding schedules, fares, and service area information. Before this project, each agency was at a different level of implementing transit technology, such as real-time vehicle information and mobile ticketing. Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments coordinated with all eight transit agencies over the course of the project to create a centralized website, a new regional brand, procure GPS hardware and software to enable real-time information for all 60 buses, and pilot mobile ticketing for agencies that desired it.   

Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission | Institute for Livable & Equitable Communities
The Institute for Livable & Equitable Communities at the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) program has been instrumental in promoting and exemplifying regional excellence by convening critical partners and acting as a central point of coordination for a long-term, multi-faceted effort. 

San Luis Obispo Council of GovernmentsTransportation Efficiency Analysis
The Transportation Efficiency Analysis is a proactive tool used to identify transportation barriers to housing production. It is changing the way they prioritize project funding and allows them to better compete for funding to implement needed infrastructure projects.

Broward Metropolitan Planning OrganizationBroward Vision: The Path to 2100
Vision 2100 (adopted in 2019) is an aspirational vision conceived by the Broward MPO in Florida to help facilitate a paradigm shift from the historical approach to growth, development, and transportation investments and how current solutions to the resulting problems are being outpaced by future needs.

Centralina Regional CouncilARPA Fund Implementation Support Program
The ARPA Fund Implementation Support Program was developed to help communities faced with challenges in making strategic spending decisions for the $800 million in federal funding that came to the Centralina region via ARPA.  

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for PlanningIllinois International Port Project
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) Illinois International Port District (IIPD) Master Plan is the result of years of effort and collaboration to address a long-identified need for improvements to the region’s port district.

Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating AgencyTowpath Trail
One of the most significant regional projects in Northeast Ohio, as well as Central Ohio, is the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. This trail runs 101 miles north and south, from its northernmost trailhead in Canal Basin Park in downtown Cleveland to its southernmost trailhead in Canal Lands Park in New Philadelphia in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. The Towpath Trail follows the historic path where mules pulled canal boats laden with passengers and goods up and down the historic Ohio & Erie Canal from 1827 to 1913.  

Sacramento Area Council of GovernmentsGreen Means Go
Green Means Go, a proposed $400 million pilot program, is SACOG’s solution to accelerate infill development by reinvesting in city cores to make it easier to walk, bike and roll to destinations, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and addressing California’s housing shortage.

Tampa Bay Regional Planning CouncilRegional Resiliency Action Plan
The Regional Resiliency Action Plan is a living document created to address resilience challenges prioritized by intergovernmental and community collaboration and intended to guide action over the next five years. Through the planning process, the planning team engaged stakeholders through online meetings, in-person workshops, and surveys that allowed the document to be shaped to reflect the wide range of expertise and geographic area.


LEADERSHIP AWARDS

2023 WALTER SCHEIBER LEADERSHIP AWARD 
Andrew Gruber: Executive Director, Wasatch Front Regional Council
Under Andrew Gruber’s 13 years of direction, the Wasatch Front Regional Council’s (WFRC) leadership in the region has grown tremendously. Andrew knows that for an MPO to lead, it needs to elevate partnerships.

Mark Policinski: Executive Director, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments
Mark Policinski is celebrating his 20th year as CEO & Executive Director of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI). Since his arrival to the agency, Mark has been a recurring member of the 100 Most Powerful Leaders in the Tri-State by Cincy Magazine. Under Mark’s leadership, OKI has become a perennial national model of what a metropolitan planning agency can become to a region.  He has changed the culture of the entire OKI organization, top to bottom, to the benefit of the 2.1 million residents who live and work in the OKI region.

2023 TOM BRADLEY LEADERSHIP AWARD
Becky Bradley: Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Executive Director
Becky Bradley is an exemplary leader and planner with a remarkable track record of accomplishments that demonstrate her dedication to creating sustainable, equitable and livable communities. Her achievements have made a significant impact on the Lehigh Valley region and serve as a model for other planners across the nation.  

2023 PRESIDENT’S AWARD
Gregory StuartExecutive Director, Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization
Gregory Stuart is the executive director of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and serves in a number of ways at the local, state, and national level. Mr. Stuart works with tireless dedication to improve the transportation landscape in Broward and the state of Florida and, more often than not, ends up leaving the world in a better state than he found it. 

Rick DunneExecutive Director, Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments
Rick has demonstrated professional and executive management excellence on the local, state, and national level. Rick efforts have established him as a leader and trusted advocate for regional concepts, approaches, and programs. He has devoted decades to serving the public interest through his contributions on the local, regional, state, and federal levels.

Geof BensonFormer Commissioner, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission
Geof has served actively on the NIRPC Commission for 15 years and was twice elected Chair of Commission, which is an honor granted to only one other NIRPC chair in recent memory. He has developed relationships with NARC members across the country and has always actively brought other NIRPC Commissioners into the NARC fold and onto NARC Board positions and leadership. Geof served as President of the NARC Board in 2019, was chair of the NARC Environment Committee for over 4 years, and served on the NARC Board overall for 11 years.

Solar Power in Your Community: DOE Office of Energy Efficacy and Renewable Energy Release a Guidebook for Localities to Develop Solar Energy 

In 2022 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) and the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) released the Solar Power in Your Community guidebook, which will assist regional and local government officials and stakeholders in boosting solar deployment and overcoming common barriers in today’s market. This marks the third edition of the guidebook, which DOE originally published in 2011. The report provides best practices, case studies, and links to additional resources. Many examples are the direct result of SolSmart, a national designation program that recognized municipalities, counties, and regional organizations that are addressing market barriers and making it faster, easier, and more affordable to go solar. NARC joined the SolSmart project team in 2021. Additional information about NARC’s involvement and support for the regional designation pathway can be found on our website.   

Solar Power in Your Community Guidebook – Examples and Insights from Local Communities

The guidebook developed by NREL and DOE serves as a resource to assist government officials and regional stakeholders in increasing deployment and local access to solar photovoltaics. Through diverse case studies, information about new technologies, and more, you will gain invaluable insight and strategies for improving the equity of solar deployment at the local and regional level. 

Access the guidebook to learn more. 

Submission of Bulk Challenges

Regional Councils, COGs, and MPOs are encouraged to review and validate the availability data presented on the new National Broadband Map to determine whether to submit a challenge. If your organization or local districts determine that a challenge is needed, the FCC has provided steps to follow here. 

Solar Power in Your Community Guidebook – Reaching for Greater Solar Equity

Despite substantial market growth, barriers to solar adoption disproportionally impact low- to moderate-income (LMI) households and under-resourced communities. Regional and local governments are uniquely positioned to remove many of the barriers to widespread solar adoption and make solar energy more affordable and accessible for all.  

Steps Your Community Can Take Today to Increase Solar Deployment

What actions can regional governments, local jurisdictions, and communities take to make solar accessible and affordable? There’s a lot of options, including:  

  • Organizing and Strategizing a Regional Solar Effort 
  • Updating Regional and Local Policies and Processes 
  • Developing Local Workforce Training and Education Programs 
  • Educating and Empowering Potential Customers using Inclusive Strategies  
  • Installing Solar on Local Land and Buildings 

Learn more about all of these (and more) in the U.S. Department of Energy’s To learn more,  access the report on energy.gov.  

FCC Releases New National Broadband Map – Understanding the Data Challenge Process 

On November 18, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the first draft of its new National Broadband Map, a comprehensive, location-by-location view of high-speed Internet availability across the nation. The map is a more detailed and precise reflection of the availability of fixed and mobile broadband services across the country. 

The new map can be accessed here. 

While the FCC will not implement a deadline for data challenges, NARC strongly encourages communities to make submissions by January 13, the date by which NTIA will use the FCC map to determine each state’s allocation of BEAD dollars. 

Unlike its previous census block-based maps, this updated map is built on a location-based model developed through the FCC’s Broadband Data Collection process. The map will be continuously updated with each filing period’s set of data, with the next cycle expected to span from December 31-March 1. Each filing window will then take place six months thereafter. 

The new National Broadband Map and its future iterations are expected to be instrumental in determining the flow of funds for billions of dollars for broadband deployment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). 

This includes the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, which will provide over $42 billion to expand high-speed internet access by funding planning, infrastructure deployment and adoption programs in all 50 states and Washington D.C. NTIA has required states to conduct local coordination in order to receive these funds, and NARC encourages Regional Councils, Councils of Governments, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and other regional organizations to contact and coordinate with their state broadband office to begin this process. 

Submission of Bulk Challenges

Regional Councils, COGs, and MPOs are encouraged to review and validate the availability data presented on the new National Broadband Map to determine whether to submit a challenge. If your organization or local districts determine that a challenge is needed, the FCC has provided steps to follow here. 

There is no deadline for data challenges, but submissions after January 13 will not be reflected in state allocations. 

Challenges to an individual location may include incorrect information on a particular location such as address or unit count, a location’s geographic coordinates, a location’s broadband serviceability is incorrectly identified, or a location that meets the definition of a BSL is missing from the Fabric. Consumers will be able to engage in this individual location challenge process to submit challenges for their own residences or small businesses. 

Understanding the Challenge Submission Process

Additionally, a walkthrough of the challenge process from a submitting entity’s perspective is available to watch here. Some key steps are included below.

  • Access the Broadband Serviceable Location Fabric dataset following these steps. Local governments must follow the steps provided in the link which include logging into the Broadband Data Center system and executing a limited end-user license agreement for the Fabric dataset. These licensing requests may take time to be processed so expect a processing window when submitting the access request. Delivery of credentials may take up to two weeks from the time your organization information is submitted. 
  • Familiarize yourself with the FCC’s definition of a “broadband serviceable location,” which will not necessarily include all structures at a particular location or parcel. More information can be found in the Bulk Fabric Challenge Specs Public Notice. 
  • Develop a strategy for requiring and validating the Fabric data in your geographic area. 
  • Align your data with the specifications set forth in the Data Specifications for Bulk Fabric Challenge Data document. Some of these specifications include, among other things, requirements to identify the name and contact information of the submitting entity, the Fabric location subject to challenge, the category of the challenge for each location, and evidence supporting the challenge. Further specifications require the challenge data file to include records for each location in a Comma Separated Value (CSV) format, all fields must be included in the file upload, and all values must conform to the descriptions, codes, or formats identified for each field in the Data Specifications document.  
  • Certify that the information you are submitting is true and correct (to the best of your actual knowledge, information, and belief) for each location that is part of the bulk challenge. 
  • Submit your challenge! 

Additional Resources

NARC will continue to monitor FCC updates and additional information will be provided soon. 

UPDATED – 2023 Appropriations Blog Series: Week of July 25

The House of Representatives is aiming to pass all 12 appropriations bills before it begins its month long recess on August 1.  The first of two “minibuses” was passed on Wednesday, July 20, and the second is expected to be passed later this week. 

The first minibus includes funding for the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, Energy, and Interior Departments, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

The second minibus, scheduled to be approved this week, includes funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Justice, Commerce, and Homeland Security, as well as the Department of Defense. 

If adopted into law, the minibuses would provide $91 billion for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, $86 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, $38 billion for the Department of Justice, $12 billion for the Department of Commerce, and $11 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as $762 billion in discretionary defense budget authority, and $224 billion to fund the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services and Education.

It is important to note that funding levels for each department are likely to change over the next several months once the Senate develops its own appropriation bills and both chambers reach a bipartisan and bicameral deal.  Furthermore, despite the speed with which the House has moved its appropriations bills, Senate negotiators have yet to publicly roll out any of their dozen annual spending bills where leaders are struggling to strike a larger bipartisan deal on how to fund the government.

Over the next weeks and months, NARC will update this blog as part of an effort to keep you informed about funding levels for programs of importance to cities, counties, and regions.

Funding for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development

The Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriation bill would provide $91 billion in discretionary funds, an increase of $10 billion[1] or 12 percent, above fiscal year 2022. This includes an increase of $9 billion for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and $837 million for the Department of Transportation (DOT).  Moreover, the bill would provide $169  billion in total budgetary resources, an increase of $12  billion above FY 2022.

While the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) program was level funded many of the programs that are receiving increases are important to cities, counties, and regions.  They deal with highways and transit, housing, rail, and aviation.  Funds have been included to upgrade airports; upgrade and maintain public, supported, and affordable housing; fund mass transit programs including Amtrak; and fund national infrastructure investments.  Underlying the House THUD appropriation is a focus on equity throughout federally-supported housing and transportation programs.

Of course, cities, counties, and regions of various sizes and responsibilities will benefit differently from these increases, should they become law, but the underlying message from the Appropriations Committee is that there remains substantial support within Congress for the full range of transportation and housing programs.

As THUD Subcommittee chair David E. Price (D-NC-04) said, “This year’s THUD bill builds on the successes of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).” Appropriations Committee chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) added that the investments being made through the THUD appropriations bill “are essential pathways to the American Dream and will help grow opportunity for the middle class through homeownership and … affordable housing.”

According to the Appropriations Committee, the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development funding bill would:

  • Create and sustain tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs.
  • Expand programs designed to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure with significant investments in airports, highways, transit, passenger rail, and port systems.
  • Expand rental assistance for families experiencing or at risk of homelessness and increase the number of senior housing units.
  • Promote safe transportation and housing by developing a skilled and growing workforce that would conduct inspections, mitigate hazards, seek solutions for improving the safety of housing.
  • Fund efforts to reduce emissions, increase resiliency, and address historical inequities in transportation and housing programs; and
  • Fund House Members’ earmarks.

Funding for DOT would specifically include:

  • $775 million for RAISE, TIGER, and BUILD programs including $30 million that would be targeted to areas of persistent poverty.
  • $18.7 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including funding for aviation safety and airport improvements.
  • $61.3 billion for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
  • $2 billion for motor carrier and highway traffic safety programs.
  • $3.8 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, including $2.3 billion for Amtrak; and
  • $17.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration and $1 billion for the Maritime Administration.

Funding for HUD would include:

  • $11.8 billion for community planning and development including $3.3 billion for CDBG.
  • $31 billion for tenant-based rental assistance including $1.1 billion to expand housing assistance to 140,000 more households and $55 million for housing supports for homeless veterans.
  • $8.7 billion for public housing.
  • $600 million for housing for persons with HIV/AIDS.
  • $450 million for Choice Neighborhoods initiatives; and
  • $415 million for lead hazard control especially in Section 8 housing voucher units.

[1] Funding levels have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

Defense Department Funding

The Defense Department appropriations bill would authorize $840.2 billion in national defense spending. The sprawling Pentagon funding package would authorize funds for the Defense Department and funds for national security programs within the Department of Energy. 

While not obviously important to regions, there are many like Alamo Area Council of Governments and the North Central Texas Council of Governments, that have very strong relationships with their local military bases and those relationships will benefit from much of the House-proposed Defense Department funding. 

If adopted by the House the bill would provide:

  • $2.1 billion for family housing projects both on and off base.
  • $510 million for housing for single service members.
  • $274 million for child development centers.
  • $1 billion for construction or renovation of Guard and Reserve facilities, something that has the potential of impacting a significant number of states and regions.
  • $1.3 billion for Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan projects
  • $653 million for energy resilience programs

$575 million for ongoing Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) activities, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination cleanup.[1]

[1] Source:  Association of Defense Communities, Washington, DC 

Commerce Department Funding

The Department of Commerce appropriations bill provides funding for, among other agencies, the Census Bureau, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

According to the House Appropriations Committee, the bill would help create “good paying American jobs with investments in economic development in distressed communities and fund.”  It would also address the “climate crisis with strong funding for climate resilience and research at various agencies within the Commerce Department.”

Subcommittee chair Matt Cartwright (D-PA) said that the Commerce appropriations bill would “invest in American manufacturing, economic development and infrastructure improvements to strengthen our economy and improve the lives of our nation’s working people,” 

Of the greatest importance to regions is funding for EDA.  If the House prevails, EDA’s fiscal year 2023 funding level would be $510 million, an increase of $137 million over last year; the Census Bureau would receive $1.5 billion, an increase of $152 billion over last year; MBDA would receive $70 million, $15 million more than last year; and NOAA would receive nearly $7 billion, nearly $1 billion more than last year. 

Next Week: More analysis and an overview of funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. 

NARC Presents the 2022 Regional Leadership and Achievement Awards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Columbus, OH (June 14, 2022) – The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) presented its 2022 Achievement and Leadership Awards today during an awards ceremony held at the NARC 56th Annual Conference & Exhibition.  

“I am so pleased and so proud as President of NARC to be able to celebrate these achievements in regional cooperation, excellence, and leadership,” said NARC President Bob Cannon, Supervisor of Clinton Township, Michigan and former chair of Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. “What greater honor is there than to be able to recognize the valuable contributions of my colleagues.”  

Eleven projects received 2022 Achievement Awards and four regional leaders received 2022 Leadership Awards. More information about this year’s recipients can be found below.  

ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

Eastgate Regional Council of Governments | Eastgate Regional Broadband Feasibility Study 

In June of 2021, the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments (Eastgate) accepted the completed Regional Broadband Feasibility Study that would serve as the roadmap towards addressing the issues that plague high-speed connectivity in the region while also promoting the modernization of broadband infrastructure to ensure competitiveness in a fast-changing and ever-evolving global landscape. 

East Texas Council of Governments | Rural, Set, Go! Workforce Strategy Public Forum Series 

Rural, Set, Go! is an intentional strategy to engage community leaders, business leaders, and community members in candid conversations about the factors that influence their local workforce and economic development needs, particularly in-demand skills as identified by the community employers.   

Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission | In Recognition of the Miami Valley Disaster Recovery Leadership 

Following a series of disastrous storms in 2019 the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) MVRPC was asked and agreed to become the designated leader of the Long-Term Community Disaster Recovery Network, helping the impacted counties, cities, townships and villages across the region create a plan for recovery and resiliency.  

Region 1 Planning Council | R1 Land Bank 

The R1 Land Bank exists to effectively aggregate parcels of land for future sale or development, while fostering municipal collaboration and supporting community goals. Hundreds of legally abandoned sit at length, often years, vacant and deteriorating. Through the land bank, vacant properties may be acquired and returned to market at a higher value putting an end to the vicious cycle of declining equalized assessed valuations and abandoned properties in communities.      

Lehigh Valley Planning Commission with Lehigh County, Pennsylvania | Lehigh Valley Jobs & Housing Support Initiative 

Immediately following closures from the COVID-19 Pandemic Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) alongside Lehigh County, went to work to quantify the vulnerabilities as a first step in beginning to address what quickly became a jobs and housing crisis. Within weeks on the shutdowns, the mayors of the region’s three cities, Bethlehem, Allentown and Easton joined the roundtable with Lehigh County and LVPC to start needed problem-solving.  

Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization | Miami-Dade TPO SMART STEP Program 

The Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Urban Mobility Task Force & Non-Urban Core Task Force were created to focus on addressing bicycle and pedestrian mobility challenges in Miami-Dade County. As a result, the SMART STEP (Street Transportation Enhancements Program) was created to facilitate interagency coordination, innovation, and accelerated implementation of pedestrian and bicycle improvement projects that increase connectivity and enhance safety.    

Puget Sound Regional Council | PSRC’s Equity Program 

PSRC’s goal is to advance racial equity to ensure that the region’s vision for a prosperous and healthy future is possible for all people in the region. Recognizing that this is not available to everyone, PSRC set out to change this with its new Equity Program. PSRC’s Equity Program offers several innovations as they are taking an entirely new approach to equity in their work. 

Southeast Michigan Council of Governments | Southeast Michigan Electric Vehicle (EV) Resource Kit and Planning Hub    

 The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) developed the Southeast Michigan EV Resource Kit and Planning Hub as a one-stop destination which provides local communities and stakeholders with quick access to key data and background information on EVs and EV infrastructure; the current status of infrastructure and deployment; community zoning and planning ordinances; funding opportunities; and local case studies and best practices. The primary goal of this resource is to assist stakeholders and communities across the region and state to most effectively prepare for and support the adoption of EVs as well as in the deployment of EV charging infrastructure.   

Alamo Area Council of Governments | Camp Bullis Sentinel Landscape 

The Camp Bullis Sentinel Landscape (CBSL) was designated as the first Sentinel Landscape in Texas, and one of only 10 in the nation. Sentinel Landscapes are areas in which natural and working lands are well suited to protect defense facilities from land use that is incompatible with the military’s mission.  The purpose of the program is to focus and leverage federal resources on a landscape-scale natural resource conservation effort through a regional consortium of state and local governments, nonprofit conservation organizations, military installations, and regional Federal technical assistance offices. 

Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) SCAG Housing Policy Leadership Academy 

The SCAG Housing Policy Leadership Academy (HPLA) offers a 10-session online training for emerging and established community leaders who want to better understand how to advance policy solutions to increase the supply and availability of affordable housing. The program is open to elected officials, advocates, and community stakeholders in moving forward a pro-housing development agenda and empower leaders to make informed decisions. SCAG had an overwhelming response to the program. 

Houston-Galveston Area Council | H-GAC Small Business Financial Assistance – Pandemic & Beyond   

In 2020, as businesses struggled to remain afloat due to mandated closures, H-GAC worked to find solutions. Endeavoring to create new, nimble and responsive loan programs to meet small business needs, H-GAC leveraged its resources, connections, special ability to tap into various funding sources, and its existing framework. The pandemic spurred immediate action from the third largest county in the nation, Harris County, which would help pave the way for the creation of various loan programs in the region. 

LEADERSHIP AWARDS 

2022 WALTER SCHEIBER LEADERSHIP AWARD  

Barry Seymour, Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission 

Barry Seymour has served since 2006 as Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), one of the nation’s largest and most respected Metropolitan Planning Organizations.  In his time at DVRPC, Mr. Seymour instituted the first municipal grant program for revitalization of urban neighborhoods and older suburban communities, created a growth management planning program for suburban communities, spearheaded the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Smart Transportation initiative, oversaw a regional food system plan, and is now directing efforts to improve energy efficiency and address climate change in the region. He is a recipient of the 2008 Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence.   

2022 TOM BRADLEY LEADERSHIP AWARD 

The Honorable Tom Johnson, Mayor of Village of Somerset, Ohio 

Tom Johnson, Mayor of the Village of Somerset, is one of Appalachian Ohio’s leading public servants and a champion of community-led economic development. Mayor Johnson understands the region’s assets—its natural environment, its unique historic downtowns, and its entrepreneurial spirit. He also understands the importance of both working top-down and bottom-up and the power of working collaboratively to address the challenges and disparities faced by small communities like those in Appalachian Ohio.   

The Honorable Rap Hankins, Council member, City of Trotwood 

Mr. Rap Hankins is a well-known, well-respected leader at the local, regional, state and national levels.  Mr. Hankins served as an elected Councilmember for the City of Trotwood, a Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) member community, for more than 16 years. Mr. Rap Hankins is a champion for regionalism in his role as a leader for multi-county racial equity, disaster recovery and environmental efforts. These are three separate efforts that are combined because of who Rap is –a leader, community activist, and a drum major for change in the Miami Valley.  In total, he has dedicated more than 20 years toward leadership of regional initiatives led by or affiliated with MVRPC.  There is no end in sight because Rap feels reenergized and feels he is accomplishing far more now as an unelected official toward the regional and state ideals that he has long championed.  

2022 PRESIDENT’S AWARD  

Lyle Wray, Executive Director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments

For over 40 years, he has been the model of an innovative public servant.  As Executive Director of the Capitol Region Council of Governments, his leadership made an indelible and positive impact on the local, regional, state and bi-state regional levels that will reverberate for many years.  Lyle’s work in Connecticut has been transformational for the region. With Lyle’s leadership, collaboration, and knowledge, we’ve seen positive changes in the “land of steady habits”. The region and the state are better for his contributions. 

More information about NARC awards, conferences, and leadership contact Melissa Lowe, Melissa.Lowe@narc.org, or check out our website at www.NARC.org. 

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About the National Association of Regional Councils  

NARC serves as a national voice for regions by advocating for regional cooperation as the most effective way to address a variety of community planning and development opportunities and issues. NARC’s member organizations are composed of multiple local governments that work together to serve American communities – large and small, urban and rural.