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Biden administration moves to protect Alaska wilderness; opening statements and first witness in NY trial; SCOTUS hears Starbucks case, with implications for unions on the line; rural North Carolina town gets pathway to home ownership.

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The Supreme Court weighs cities ability to manage a growing homelessness crisis, anti-Israeli protests spread to college campuses nationwide, and more states consider legislation to ban firearms at voting sites and ballot drop boxes.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

USDA's climate action fellows to help Ohio farmers/small businesses access clean energy funds

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024   

Ohio 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 people as Climate Change Fellows. They will be assigned to Ohio 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 for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said each state's Fellow will have specific tasks.

"Helping to provide guidance to the grant recipient, or to the grant writer," Kirkland explained. "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 Fellows after seeing an increase in applications. 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 noted. "(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 part of the Justice40 Initiative, an administration goal in which 40% of the federal investments will go to marginalized communities.


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