Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
Sioux Falls has decided not to seek federal grant money to reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollution, following Rapid City’s decision to apply for the funding.
The program would have provided the state with $3 million for planning and access to a $4.6 billion fund for implementation. The other states that did not apply by the March 31 deadline are Florida, Iowa and Kentucky.
The program also includes $1 million in planning grants for each of the nation’s largest cities – including Rapid City and Sioux Falls – and access to the $4.6 billion grant pool for implementation if municipalities applied by April 28.
Sioux Falls declines
“After much consideration on a short timeline, we have determined these federal dollars have numerous requirements that would ultimately take away the focus from the city’s current and planned sustainability efforts,” said Holly Meier, sustainability coordinator for the city of Sioux Falls, in a written statement.
That plan includes riparian buffers along the Big Sioux River watershed, electric vehicle implementation, and an LED street light conversion plan.
Environmental activists recently protested that plan outside of City Hall on Earth Day, pointing out that the latest draft shared on Feb. 23 walked back a number of its initially proclaimed goals.
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said in an opinion piece for The Dakota Scout, “While it’s accurate that $4.6 billion in additional federal money is expected to eventually be available for implementation grants across the country, we have no guarantee of what we may receive due to the competitive federal grant process. This would prevent us from being able to adequately plan for ongoing projects and programs.”
Climate group reacts
Kara Hoving is a climate equity policy researcher and serves as communications coordinator at SoDak 350, a nonpartisan grassroots organization mobilizing South Dakotans for climate action. She said, “It goes without saying that we’re pretty disappointed.”
“What the mayor does not mention is that the city would have received technical assistance from the EPA for accessing other sources of funding beyond the $4.6 billion pool,” Hoving said. “I’m not certain what they are referencing when talking about ‘requirements.’ There were strong requirements for community engagement, but as far as I understand, those were the strongest requirements. And of course, reporting requirements after the fact.”
Hoving said the grant program would have provided the resources to conduct analysis and understand the trade-offs of implementing different climate mitigation efforts.
“To complain about the cost of action and then not accept the millions of dollars being offered to implement a solution makes us think the city isn’t serious about tackling the challenge of climate change,” Hoving said.
Rapid City applies
The decision by Sioux Falls not to apply for the grant is in contrast to Rapid City, which decided to apply for the funding. A summary sheet prepared for the Rapid City Council says the funds could be used for “staffing, contractors, planning meetings, collaboration among governments, assessments, supplies, stakeholder convenings, outreach and education for the public, studies, training, incidental costs,” and more.
Jamie Toennies, grants division manager for the city of Rapid City, said in a written statement, “If awarded, the city will use the planning grant to work with community partners on determining the extent of our greenhouse gas emissions in the community and work on strategies to reduce those emissions. The city would use a corresponding implementation grant to fund those strategies. The city is already working closely with key community partners including the city’s Sustainability Committee and South Dakota Mines.”
The Climate Pollution Reduction Grant program is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The program is aimed at supporting state and local governments in their efforts to reduce air pollution and address climate change.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since its original publication, this story has been updated with an additional comment from a Rapid City official.
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