Biden Kicks Off Earth Week with Solar Funding, Expanding Climate Corps

Biden Kicks Off Earth Week with Solar Funding, Expanding Climate Corps

The Biden administration is marking Earth Week with announcements of solar power funding for lower-income communities, an expansion of the Climate Corps and Clean Air Act rules

U.S. President Joe Biden greets attendees after speaking at a campaign event on April 16, 2024 in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

CLIMATEWIRE | The Biden administration will mark Earth Week with a raft of new grants and initiatives in the coming days, culminating Thursday with the roll out of new pollution standards for power plants.

On Monday — the last Earth Day of this term — President Joe Biden will travel to Prince William Forest Park in Virginia to announce the recipients of $7 billion in solar power grants for low- and moderate-income communities. Biden will also use the park — developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps — as his backdrop to announce the expansion of the newly formed American Climate Corps.

White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi told reporters Friday that Biden’s remarks will cast the climate crisis as an opportunity “for us to come together to unlock economic opportunity, to create pathways to middle class-supporting careers, to save people money and improve their quality of life.”

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Biden has spent this spring shoring up his base in the run-up to the November election, including by canceling billions of dollars in student loans. Earth Week gives him the opportunity to tout his climate accomplishments to young and progressive voters, who could prove crucial to his reelection.

A senior administration official said on Friday’s call that “young people have their fingerprints all over President Biden’s climate agenda.”

The White House said the president will announce Monday that the American Climate Corps will expand into three new states and target communities historically dependent on fossil fuels. The young-adult work program, focused on green energy and climate resiliency, is modeled after former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.

Biden will also announce a new “streamlined” pathway for ACC volunteers to transition into federal jobs.

Throughout this week, Cabinet members and other senior administration officials will fan out across the country to highlight Biden’s climate policies, especially passage of landmark infrastructure and climate laws in 2021 and 2022.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s packed schedule includes a visit to solar and wind manufacturers in New Mexico, while Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will “help break ground” on a high speed rail line that will link Las Vegas to Southern California, according to the White House.

EPA Administration Michael Regan was notably absent from the White House’s Earth Week briefing, and the White House and EPA both declined to elaborate on his plans. Friday’s call — which included EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Brenda Mallory — omitted any mention of the four EPA power sector rules that stakeholders expect to be released Thursday.

But climate advocates received invitations Friday to an unspecified announcement Thursday morning at Howard University. That is likely the release of four final Clean Air Act rules that would curb climate, air and water pollution from fossil fuel generation and cut coal ash from decommissioned power plants.

Solar for All awards

The White House said Friday that the solar grant awardees Biden announces Monday will enable more than 900,000 households in disadvantaged communities to benefit from rooftop and community solar power.

McCabe said EPA winnowed down 150 applications to 60 awards via a “robust, multistage review that included input from hundreds of experts in climate power markets, environmental justice, labor and consumer protection from across the federal government.”

The so-called Solar for All program is the final plank of EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, a $27 billion grant program created by the 2022 climate law. The fund aims to leverage private capital to boost low-carbon investment and broaden consumer access to clean energy technologies, from solar panels to electric vehicle charging equipment.

McCabe said EPA would make 49 “state-level” awards Monday worth a combined $5.5 billion. Another six awards — totaling over $500 million — will “ensure that investments in solar energy are reaching Indian country,” she said.

EPA will also award five multistate grants totaling approximately $1 billion, she said.

“The multistate awards will reach people across the nation and invest in overburdened communities that the private market finds particularly challenging to serve,” McCabe said.

A White House summary shows that state-level awards will go to a mix of states, territories (like Guam and Puerto Rico) and nonprofits. Twelve of the 49 awards, for example, will go to nonprofits, and Texas’ grant won’t go to a state agency — it will instead be administered by Harris County.

The multistate Solar for All grants will go to five nonprofits: Clean Energy Fund of Texas, a green bank; Grid Alternatives, a solar and housing nonprofit coalition; Groundswell, a community power nonprofit; Growth Opportunity Partner, a community development financial institution; and Inclusive Prosperity Capital, a national clean energy financing platform.

The White House and EPA did not provide information about the size of each award. Awards were based on the number of low-income consumers that applicants will reach, which indicates that larger states may be in line for more funding.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2024. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals.


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