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    'We have no time to waste': Bennet urges feds to quickly distribute rural clean energy funds


    December 7, 2022 - HANNAH METZGER hannah.metzger@coloradopolitics.com

     

      Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet sent a letter to federal officials on Tuesday, calling for the quick distribution of clean energy funding to rural communities.

      With Congress's passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in August, the federal government designated nearly $14 billion for rural clean energy programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, Bennet said rural Coloradans told him they previously faced difficulties accessing USDA programs and rural development funds.

      "We have no time to waste as rural families struggle with both high energy costs, as well as the impacts of climate-fueled disasters like wildfire and drought," Bennet — a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry — said in the letter. "These programs can play a critical role in accelerating deployment of clean energy, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, creating new local economic opportunities, and lowering energy costs for rural families."

      In the letter, Bennet also asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide clear implementation guidance for the funds; focus on the needs of disadvantaged and economically distressed communities; and, implement programs to provide the greatest benefit and maximum uptake — with further specific recommendations for rolling out rural electric cooperatives and electric loans.

      Of the nearly $14 billion in rural clean energy funds, $9.7 billion is earmarked for financial assistance to help rural electric cooperatives transition to clean energy, nearly $2 billion is for the Rural Energy for America Program and $1 billion is for additional funding for electric loans for renewable energy.

      "Rural electric cooperatives, public power companies, agricultural producers, rural small businesses, renewable energy developers and other entities in Colorado and across the country are poised to put these funds to use," Bennet said. "I stand ready to support you in ensuring these programs can bring the greatest benefit to our rural communities."

      The letter was addressed to Xochitl Torres Small, undersecretary for rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Andrew Berke, administrator of the Rural Utilities Service.

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