Tags:The following is an opinion from Assistant Secretary for Energy, Jonathan Williams, of the N.C. Deptartment of Commerce:
When the North Carolina Energy Office came to western North Carolina this month to discuss the funds North Carolina will receive from the Tennessee Valley Authority “acid rain” lawsuit settlement, we heard there’s no shortage of good ideas, motivation or opportunities to put those funds to good use. During three days of outreach sessions in Murphy, Waynesville and Boone, we met a broad cross-section of citizens who both wanted to know more about the settlement and who offered their thoughts on how best to do lasting good. More than 50 people spoke and nearly 200 attended the outreach sessions.
We also learned more about the good efforts already going on to promote conservation and embrace sustainable, renewable and clean energy. Here are just a few of the examples:
• $819,000 in energy efficiency savings at the Cherokee County schools helped avoid staffing cutbacks and keep 15 teachers in the classroom.
• Dozens of students landed full-time jobs based on their energy-related internships that had been funded by the Recovery Act.
• At-risk youth are now getting energy efficiency job training and improving home and commercial buildings, thanks to Asheville-based Green Opportunities.
• Local innovators are pursuing many more creative and effective energy initiatives, like Asheville’s Energy Coordinator Maggie Ullman, Western Carolina University’s Energy Manager Lauren Bishop, Land of Sky’s Environmental Service Manager William Akers, Waste Reduction Partner’s Terry Albrecht, and chairman Jeff Tiller of Appalachian State University’s Department of Technology and Environmental Design.
The settlement will have a significant impact on the region beyond the $11 million in direct dollars set aside for grants in North Carolina. The TVA will be spending more than $3 billion to clean up its coal-fired power plants that have taken a toll on the environment in western North Carolina. The TVA will also directly spend about $290 million on environmental mitigation projects in the TVA region.
The $11.2 million designated for North Carolina grants is being distributed over five years, as set out in the settlement. Our effort will be to direct those dollars to projects that will benefit the most people and address some of the issues raised in the settlement: the health, environment, economic wellbeing and social welfare of the region.
As we design the grant program we’ll discuss what we heard and saw, and look to be creative -- whether it is funding specific projects, loan funds, education or agriculture initiatives or some of the other ideas put forward. In addition, we intend to explore ways to leverage the dollars from the settlement with other resources to stretch the funds even further.
At its best, the goal is to put these dollars to use in ways that do more than fund a project for the here-and-now but provide support for efforts that will be ongoing and provide a lasting good for many people in western North Carolina.
If you’d like to stay informed on the work we’re doing on the TVA settlement or have ideas and suggestions, please contact the Energy Office by writing to: TVA Settlement; N.C. Energy Office; 1830A Tillery Place, Raleigh, N.C. 27604.