Learn about applying for free technical assistance from Smart Growth America

Interested in applying for Smart Growth America’s free technical assistance, but not sure where to start? If so, join Smart Growth America and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Sustainable Communities for an informational webinar on Friday, September 21, 2012 from 1:00-2:30 PM EDT.

The webinar will provide a comprehensive look at the free technical assistance available to communities, including the programs, processes, and application timelines that each grant recipient offers.

Also included on the webinar will be technical assistance from three other nonprofits – Forterra, Project for Public Spaces, and Global Green. All four organizations are gearing up for the second of five free annual technical assistance awards, made possible by the EPA’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.

Technical assistance

Update on Appropriations: The Partnership for Sustainable Communities

This week, the House Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee marked up their spending bill for the 2013 fiscal year. The bill funds HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities to continue its operations, though funding for the tremendously popular Regional Planning and Community Challenge grants was not included. Also lacking in the bill was funding for DOT’s TIGER grants.

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Blumenauer criticizes cuts to smart growth program

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) yesterday took aim at language in the U.S. EPA spending bill that would eliminate an agency program that helps communities develop with an eye toward environmental and economic sustainability.

The Smart Growth program would see its entire budget slashed in the Interior-EPA 2012 spending bill currently being debated on the House floor. The program offers technical and financial assistance to cities and towns looking to expand their infrastructure to emphasize livability and downplay driving and sprawl.

“Eliminating funding for Smart Growth programs would be devastating for communities across the country,” Blumenauer said in a statement. “Even more important in today’s tight budget environment, they leverage additional funding through public-private partnerships to help revitalize communities, grow businesses and create jobs.”

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House prepares to vote on bill that would eliminate funding for EPA Office of Smart Growth

Members of the House of Representatives are debating the Interior-Environment appropriations bill this week, legislation that would significantly cut funding the the U.S. Environmental Protection agency and completely eliminate funding for the Agency’s Office of Smart Growth. Smart Growth America strongly opposes these proposed budget cuts, and encourages Members of the House to vote “NO” on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill this week.

Tell your Representative to oppose these cuts: click here to send a letter now.

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Philadelphia launches stormwater protection project with Green City, Clean Waters

Last week the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Philadelphia Water Department signed an agreement to officially begin using green stormwater infrastructure to reduce Combined Sewer Overflows to its waterways. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, speaking at a conference last week, presented the new plan:

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) submitted plans for the project to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) in September, 2009, after vetting the plan with Philadelphia residents. Green City, Clean Waters lays the groundwork for the PWD to build primarily green infrastructure – such as stormwater tree trenches, vegetated bumpouts, porous asphalt, rain gardens, sidewalk planters – over the next 25 years. These projects will transform non-porous surfaces that repel rain into surfaces that allow water to soak through, reducing the amount of environmentally damaging stormwater runoff.

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In deciding to leave Kansas City, EPA fails to practice what it preaches

The New York Times adds to the ongoing debate over the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s decision to move one of its regional offices out of Kansas City, Kan., to an office park 20 miles from downtown. The article, published via Greenwire, explains the contradiction in such a move:

“[T]he decision runs counter to the goals of the Obama Administration’s “livable communities” initiative, run by EPA, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program is based on the idea that denser populations and more mass transit lead to less pollution and less need for sprawling suburban developments on the untouched land outside cities.

‘[The lease] is totally inconsistent with what the national office has been saying and doing,’ said Kaid Benfield, director of the smart growth program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in an interview. ‘EPA has been a government leader in thinking about sustainability and the importance of cities in relation to environmental issues. For some reason, in this particular case, all of that was apparently disregarded.'”

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Tell the EPA: Don't leave downtown Kansas City in favor of costly sprawl!

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to move one of its regional offices out of downtown Kansas City, KS, to an office park nearly 20 miles outside of the city. The EPA employs nearly 600 people at these offices, and leaving downtown will hurt both the environment and the economy of the region.

The EPA’s decision to leave downtown contradicts its own mission, hurts employees, hurts Kansas City and wastes taxpayer dollars.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the EPA to stay in downtown Kansas City.

First and foremost this decision contradicts the mission of the EPA, which aims to reduce air pollution. Many employees will now have a longer commute that must be done by car, meaning higher emissions and more congestion on roads in the region.

Tell EPA and GSA: Leaving downtown Kansas City will raise emissions.

Equally troubling, EPA’s decision wastes valuable taxpayer dollars. The U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – both of which work closely with EPA in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities – have invested millions of dollars in projects meant to support the Kansas City region’s economy through smarter growth strategies. EPA’s decision goes against these efforts and undermines other federal agencies’ work and investments.

Tell EPA and GSA: Leaving downtown Kasnas City undermines federal investments.

The EPA’s offices in Kansas City have been a cornerstone of the city’s economic revitalization, and its decision to leave undermines these efforts. In addition, as gas prices reach all time highs the EPA’s decision will also be a burden on employees and their families. More money spent on gas and car maintenance also means less money to spend in other sectors of the economy, further hurting the Kansas City region.

The EPA’s decision is irresponsible and hurts U.S. taxpayers as well as Kansas City’s environment and economy. Help us hold the Agency accountable for its actions.

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EPA announces plan to abandon Kansas City – at the cost of the city and taxpayers

Crossposted from the Huffington Post.

To avoid small costs, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be creating big costs for everyone, including the federal government.

The EPA announced on Monday that it plans to move the Agency’s Region 7 headquarters, currently located in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, to Lenexa, a site nearly 20 miles outside of downtown. The EPA’s decision violates Executive Order 13514, which requires federal agencies to locate their offices in downtown areas and town centers whenever possible. Not following the Executive Order will cost a lot of money for everyone — including Kansas City and its businesses, EPA employees and U.S. taxpayers too.

As one of Kansas City’s major employers, EPA’s decision hurts the city, which has made great strides in the last decade to revitalize its downtown. “The EPA regional headquarters has been instrumental in our urban revitalization efforts,” Mayor Joe Reardon said in a statement on Monday, and the value of such an employer’s presence in a city’s revitalization efforts goes beyond their immediate impact. The EPA headquarters helped anchor renewed economic development in an area that had seen decades of decline, and the Agency’s decision undermines efforts to build a stronger economy in Kansas City.

The relocation will also mean increased traffic on I-35 and the higher maintenance costs associated with additional cars on the road. The Town of Lenexa projects I-35 to capacity by 2020, just 7 years into GSA’s 20-year lease. The EPA’s move will only hasten the arrival of that saturation point, creating costly delays or requiring even more (federal) money to improve conditions.

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EPA Grant Helps Right-Size Saginaw, MI

This post is part of an ongoing series about organizations that have received grants from the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. Did your organization receive one of these grants? Tell us about it!

Lapeer Ave in downtown Saginaw, originally uploaded by Ian Freimuth.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently selected 25 communities from across the country to receive technical assistance under its Smart Growth Implementation Assistance program – and one of them was Saginaw, Michigan. Saginaw was selected to receive assistance developing a plan to right-size its urban land area and coordinate its infrastructure investments. Both objectives are directly connected to improving sustainability and livability for the city’s residents and businesses.

Saginaw is a midsize, manufacturing-based city located in the heart of Michigan. Over the past decade, roughly 10% of its total population has moved out of the city limits. This population loss, coupled by an increase in abandoned and vacant properties, means nearly 5,500 properties in the city are currently unused and unmaintained. In total, nearly 25% of the city is physically empty or on the verge of demolition yet still requires a full range of public services, like sewer, water, roads, lighting, and police and fire protection.

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Triggering Economic Growth in Denver, CO

The Denver Skyline overlooking I-25, originally uploaded by Flickr user mandymooo.

The South Platte River has been an integral part of Denver, Colorado’s history, spanning 14 neighborhoods across the city and bordered by a railroad track dating back to the mid-1800s. Unfortunately, the river has also endured pollution from a variety of sources over the life of the city: early railroad cars dumped their waste directly into the river, gravel quarries along its banks were later converted to landfills that leached pollution into the water, and a number of abandoned gas stations, smelters, and coal burning plants line the river as well.

In October, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded the City and County of Denver an Area-Wide Planning Pilot Grant to clean up the South Platte River and the properties along its banks. The area also received a Community Challenge/TIGER II Grant from HUD and DOT to create a new transit station nearby.

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