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! 

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.  

It’s NARC Membership Week – Thanks for Being a NARC Member!

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) annual Membership Week will begin November 14 through November 18.  

This week will be all about you, our members, because without your support and leadership, NARC would not be able to do the work we do: bringing regional councils across the country together and advocating for regional solutions in Washington.

We will be highlighting some of the key benefits that come along with being a part of our organization. We want to make sure you are utilizing all the advantages that come along with being a NARC member.

Please stay tuned for updates as we get closer to Membership Week. 

On behalf of the entire NARC staff, Happy Membership Week! We look forward to celebrating with you and hope to see many of your at our upcoming National Conference of Regions the week of January 22nd. 

It’s NARC Membership Week – Thanks for Being a NARC Member!

The National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) annual Membership Week begins this week!

This week is all about you, our members, because without your support and leadership, NARC would not be able to do the work we do: bringing regional councils across the country together and advocating for regional solutions in Washington.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to pose unprecedented challenges across the country, we are impressed by all the ways you have stepped up to move your regions forward. We at NARC remain dedicated to providing you the support and tools you need to help your organization thrive.

Over the next couple weeks, a NARC staff member will be reaching out to each member by phone to personally thank you for your ongoing support. I encourage you to let them know what you think we are doing well and what we could be doing better to serve you.

This week we will also be highlighting some of the key benefits that come along with being a part of our organization. We want to make sure you are utilizing all the advantages that come along with being a NARC member.

Check out the video below for a quick Membership Week kickoff message from NARC Executive Director Leslie Wollack. And keep an eye out this week for more videos from NARC leadership and staff, highlighting the benefits that NARC provides to its members and offering some ways that you can get more engaged with NARC.

On behalf of the entire NARC staff, Happy Membership Week! We look forward to talking with you and hope to see many of you at our upcoming Virtual Executive Directors Conference the week of October 5th. 

This Month in Photos: July – August 2019

This Month in Photos: July – August 2019

Welcome to the latest edition of Regional Councils: This Month in Photos!  June – July 2019 (PDF)

Each month, NARC publishes Regional Councils: This Month in Photos to highlight events and activities taking place in regions around the nation. 

We feature regional council meetings, board retreats, meetings with state or federal elected officials, the opening of new facilities, special programs, awards, and anything else you view as important or fun to share with your colleagues.

If you would like your region included in Regional Councils: This Month in Photos, please send your photos and a brief description to Neil Bomberg at neil@narc.org.