SHAHEEN: MERRIMACK COUNTY NOW ELIGIBLE FOR ADDITIONAL ENERGY EFFICIENCY FUNDING

Shaheen successfully urged Energy Secretary Chu and Energy Dept. to correct error that deprived NH counties of over $4 million in Recovery Act funding

August 26, 2009

(Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen announced today that Merrimack County has won its appeal to the Department of Energy (DOE) and is eligible for additional funding for energy efficiency and conservation projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Shaheen successfully fought to reverse a DOE decision that excluded New Hampshire counties from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program earlier this year, which will bring more than $4 million to New Hampshire for energy efficiency projects.

"Additional funding for New Hampshire counties to invest in energy efficiency and conservation efforts will create jobs, bring down energy costs for consumers, and help America become energy independent," said Shaheen. "I'm pleased that the Department of Energy and Secretary Chu have allowed New Hampshire counties apply for the additional funding they deserve, and I urge DOE to distribute the funds quickly so that it can be put to use before the winter."

When ARRA passed into law, the DOE issued an erroneous ruling that New Hampshire counties were not eligible for funding under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program because they have "relatively few responsibilities." On April 17, Shaheen wrote to Energy Secretary Chu to ask that the decision be reversed. Shaheen also worked with DOE, Secretary Chu, and county leaders in New Hampshire to illustrate that New Hampshire counties do have significant responsibilities and should not have been excluded.

In June, thanks to Shaheen's efforts, DOE announced a formal process through which New Hampshire counties can appeal the ruling and receive the funding they deserve. After working with Merrimack County, Shaheen announced that they won their appeal and will receive $428,200.

The text of Shaheen's letter to Secretary Chu follows:

July 23, 2009

The Honorable Steven Chu

U.S. Department of Energy

1000 Independence Ave., SW

Washington, DC 20585

Dear Secretary Chu,

I am writing to urge the Department of Energy (DOE) to grant the appeal of Merrimack County, NH and correct the mistake in determining eligibility under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program that has excluded Merrimack County from accessing much needed funds for energy-saving projects.

On March 26, 2009, DOE released the Funding Opportunity Announcement for approximately $2.7 billion in formula grants under the EECBG Program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  Of this total, New Hampshire state and municipal governments were allocated $12,522,900.  However, no dollars were allocated to our 10 highest-populated counties, despite authorizing language that expressly defined them as eligible for funding in Subtitle E, Section 541, Paragraph 3(A)(ii)(II) of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

On April 17, I wrote to you upon learning that New Hampshire counties were excluded as eligible recipients of funding based on language in the 2007 Census of Governments that defined our county governments as having "relatively few responsibilities."  Since all New Hampshire counties, including Merrimack, have a long history of administering a wide range of projects, I asked that the exclusion be corrected and that our counties received their intended allocations.  On May 6, we spoke by phone regarding the same issue.

On June 24, 2009, DOE published an announcement in the Federal Registry (Vol. 74, No. 120, Pgs. 30061-30064) describing an appeals process for eligibility determinations.  The notice made clear that the 2007 Census data "may not have been sufficiently informative" and that in order to successfully challenge DOE's decision, a county need only prove that it "is capable of implementing programs or projects that are consistent with those listed by EISA as activities that further the goals of EECBG."

In the materials submitted by Merrimack County, you will find conclusive evidence that the county not only performs many crucial functions for residents, including management of a 291-bed county nursing home, but also has the capacity to discharge a broad range of programs related to energy efficiency and conservation.  For example, Merrimack County is currently planning to install a solar heating system for the county Department of Corrections.

Since March of 2009, Merrimack County has been forced to wait for the federal government to address this unfortunate error in the eligibility requirements.  As the county's appeal clearly addresses the requirements of the EECBG program, I ask that there be no further delay in making the award. 

Sincerely,

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

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