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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

USDA funding to ease application process for clean energy projects

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Wednesday, January 17, 2024   

Indiana will soon get a dedicated person to help farmers, ranchers and other landowners apply for federal grants to help fight pollution and climate change.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would hire 40 individuals as Climate Change Fellows. They will be assigned to Indiana and other states to help people apply for the Rural Energy for America Program, which has $2 billion in funding for clean-energy projects.

Anthony Kirkland, director of business and cooperative programs at the USDA's Rural Development office in Indianapolis, said Indiana's Fellow will have specific tasks.

"Helping to provide guidance to the grant recipient, or to the grant writer," Kirkland outlined. "They'll also be helping with evaluating the process of an application and helping with monitoring, making recommendations, providing advice to the coordinator."

USDA officials said they saw a need to hire the Climate Change Fellows after seeing an increase in applications. Kirkland noted in Indiana, just one person is processing more than 60. The program is part of President Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act.

The funding is expected to help transform rural power production, with new energy sources through net metering and power purchase agreements. The Fellows will also work with USDA employees on climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Kirkland acknowledged there is much work to be done, and his office will have its Fellow for a designated time period.

"The short-term goal is to be able to work directly with our REAP coordinators on a daily basis," Kirkland explained. "(The) long-term goal is that this is a two-year position. After that, then it would be probably reevaluated."

The positions can have one-year extensions, for a maximum of four years, depending on the duration of projects. The Rural Energy for America Program is also part of the Justice40 Initiative, an administration goal to direct 40% of federal investments to marginalized communities.


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