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$35M in green infrastructure funding awarded to Colorado state, local governments

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Chase Woodruff

(Colorado Newsline) More than $35 million in funding from the 2021 federal infrastructure law has been awarded to Colorado for programs focused on forestry, recycling and energy efficiency, in what state leaders are touting as a win for a new initiative to help local governments navigate competitive grant processes.

The grants were awarded recently by federal agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, as a result of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a $550 billion spending package passed by bipartisan majorities in Congress in 2021.

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“These funds will enable us to expand access to green spaces and drive clean energy innovation in rural areas,” Governor Jared Polis said in a press release. “Together, we’re building a path toward a stronger and more sustainable Colorado for current and future generations.”

The largest of the grants, a $9 million award to the Colorado Springs parks department, will be used to improve tree cover and reduce the heat island effect in parts of the city that lack tree canopy. Seven other Colorado cities won similar grants as part of the Urban and Community Forestry Program, while the state will receive $4.9 million to fund projects in communities that didn’t receive the grants or weren’t able to apply.

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Chaffee County received a $4 million grant from the EPA’s Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling program, which will fund the construction and operation of a new materials recovery facility to improve waste diversion. Colorado communities have struggled for years to improve their low recycling rates, especially in rural areas.

Colorado lawmakers say that smaller and more rural local governments like Chaffee County, which often lack the resources to apply for competitive federal grants, are now better able to do so thanks to a new state initiative.

The state’s Regional Grant Navigator Program, funded by legislation passed last year, employs a coordinator for each of 14 different regions to help communities seek funding provided by both the 2021 infrastructure bill and last year’s Inflation Reduction Act. Lawmakers also appropriated up to $80 million to be used for the matching funds that are needed in some cases to secure federal grants.

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“I’m proud that we allocated funding for the Regional Grant Navigator Program in the 2022 legislative session to help local communities secure federal infrastructure funding,” said Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat. “These new grants will create jobs, advance projects that save Coloradans money, and help us meet our climate goals.”

Other infrastructure grants announced recently include $5 million for the Colorado Energy Office’s efforts to implement energy-efficient building codes, and a total of $500,000 to five rural Colorado communities as part of the Department of Energy’s Energizing Rural Communities Prize, which supports clean energy demonstration projects.

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