Green digest // Stimulus funds

Stimulus funds go to energy efficiency

A plan to direct $3.9 million in federal economic stimulus funds to local green improvement projects was approved by the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor R.T. Rybak in June.

Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will support energy efficiency and conservation efforts in homes, small businesses and local government facilities, the city reported. The federal funds come through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant [EECBG] Program, a part of the Recovery Act that aims to both create jobs and promote conservation.

Twenty percent of the grant, or $780,000, will be used to create a revolving loan fund for small businesses seeking ways to reduce fossil fuel emissions or lower energy bills.

Another 20 percent was designated for residential energy efficiency improvements. A portion of the residential funds, about $75,000, will be directed to the city’s micro-grant program for citizen-led projects that address climate change.

The largest portion of the funding — about $1.95 million, or half the total — will support conservation efforts at local government facilities. Energy audits and engineering studies were expected to take place over the next several months, and will help determine where the funds should be spent.

City spokesman Matt Lindstrom said Minneapolis had not yet received the EECBG funds. The federal government was expected to release the funds within 120 days of the City Council action in June, Lindstrom said.

———

Rybak joins mayors calling for bottled water study

Mayor R.T. Rybak joined city leaders from across the country pressing for an investigation into the use of municipal water supplies in water-bottling operations.

A resolution passed in June by the U.S. Conference of Mayors called for fair compensation from bottlers for use of municipal water systems. The resolution was introduced by Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez and co-sponsored by eight other mayors, including Rybak.

The resolution cited the need for investment in the nation’s municipal water infrastructure. Revenue from the $15 billion bottled-water industry might provide some of that funding.

The resolution described a system in which bottling operations draw a significant amount of their water from municipal water supplies, and then re-sell bottled water at many times the price of tap water. An investigation into current pricing structures for use of municipal water supplies could lead to changes in the costs to water-bottling operations.

This was the second year in a row the U.S. Conference of Mayors took aim at bottled water.

Last year, the group voted to encourage cities to phase out the purchase of bottled water, citing the cost in taxpayer dollars and the message the practice sends about cities’ municipal water supplies. Rybak co-sponsored that resolution, too.

The city recently launched a website, www.tapmpls.com, that encourages residents to choose tap water over bottled water.

———

Clean out the tackle box

Thinking about casting a line in one of Southwest’s lakes this summer?

Hennepin County recently issued anglers a seasonal reminder to sort through their tackle boxes and toss out anything made with lead. (Toss it out at a designated drop-off facility, that is. More on that later.)

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency [MPCA] reports lead is still commonly found in fishing jigs and sinkers. The toxic metal can poison loons, eagles and other birds.

Although several states have banned certain kinds of lead fishing tackle, it’s still legal in Minnesota. The MPCA urges fishermen and –women to seek out alternatives made with stainless steel, tin, tungsten and other non-poisonous metals.

A link to the webpage for its “Get Out the Lead!” campaign was at the top of the MPCA site (www.pca.state.mn.us) in June.

Hennepin County suggests you take your lead tackle to a designated drop-off facility in Brooklyn Park, Bloomington or Burnsville. Find information on locations and hours at on the county’s website (http://www.hennepin.us/dropoffs).