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Feds Seek Comments on Clean-Power Incentives for Rural Areas

Minnesota residents still have time to weigh in on a federal plan to help install more wind and solar projects in rural and low-income areas. (iStockphoto)
Minnesota residents still have time to weigh in on a federal plan to help install more wind and solar projects in rural and low-income areas. (iStockphoto)
August 26, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Just a few days remain for people to weigh in on a federal plan to help install more renewable energy in low-income and rural communities, in Minnesota and across the country. It's called the Clean Energy Incentive Program, or CEIP.

Local supporters say the voluntary project will match state dollars for installing wind and solar power in areas that need financial help to make the transition to cleaner energy.

Tara Ritter, program associate for climate and rural communities with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said CEIP could benefit parts of Greater Minnesota that tend to have higher poverty rates and lower average incomes.

"Rural communities have the potential to access a lot of these Clean Energy Incentive Program funds that will allow for energy efficiency upgrades, which then directly reduce energy bills and take off some of that burden," she said.

The Environmental Protection Agency is still taking suggestions for finalizing the plan and rolling out over the next two years. The public comment period ends on Monday, August 29th.

Ritter's group is urging the EPA to remove a requirement that states use what are known as "Emission Rate Credits." She explained these basically allow states to purchase the right to emit more pollution. Ritter argued that ends up disproportionately affecting lower-income neighborhoods closest to the sources of pollution, including carbon-emitting power plants.

"We think that the trading leads to rural and minority communities generally shouldering a lot of the pollution, which increases asthma and water pollution," she added.

The Clean Energy Incentive Program is part of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, which is currently on hold during a review from the U.S. Supreme Court. The CEIP is being allowed to move forward because it is a voluntary program.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN