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City of Corvallis wins $492K EPA grant

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Corvallis is one of 22 grant winners from around the country to be designated a Climate Showcase Community by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The $8.3 million in grant awards, announced Thursday, are to assist communities in setting up programs to reduce carbon emissions and improve residents’ health.

Corvallis will use its $491,762 award for “Energize Corvallis,” a joint project with the Corvallis Environmental Center, OSU-Benton County Extension Service and The Resource Innovation Group, a nonprofit social science research organization based in Eugene.

Energize Corvallis’ goal is reducing energy use and carbon emissions from homes and businesses and creating new opportunities for energy-conservation businesses.

During the three-year program, the city estimates that about 18,000 Corvallis residents will receive climate and energy action education to improve energy efficiency and save on energy costs.

The Corvallis Environmental Center, which will receive the majority of the grant funds, plans to expand its energy-efficiency programs with the Community Carbon Challenge, an outreach program to reduce energy use for free or at low cost. Another program, Energizers, will create a network for disseminating energy-related information.

OSU-Benton County Extension plans to update and expand the Climate Masters community volunteer program, which began in 2009-10. In the tradition of Master Gardeners and other OSU Master Programs, the Climate Masters program trains participants, who in turn educate others on practical ways to reduce personal and household carbon footprints.

In 2005, the City Council passed a resolution urging residents and businesses to purchase renewable power. As a result, Corvallis become the first city on the West Coast — and the third in the nation — to be named an EPA “Green Power Community.”

In 2008, the Energy Trust of Oregon partnered with the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition to launch the year-long Corvallis Energy Challenge, which resulted in an increase in residential energy audits of 335 percent over the previous year.

In 2009, the city received $511,600 in federal energy block grant funds, which were used in part to build on the Corvallis Energy Challenge.

Finding money for sustainability programs always is a challenge, and aggressively pursuing grant funding is “the way things have to get done in this budget environment,” said Linda Lovett, the sustainability supervisor for the City of Corvallis, who wrote the winning grant application.

While last year’s Green Power Community award didn’t include a grant, it got the city noticed. “You can build on your success,” she said. What earned Corvallis the grant this year was its established pilot programs, which needed money to continue but wouldn’t have to start from scratch.

When matching city staff and community volunteer time are added in, the value of the grant to the community is actually about $738,000, Lovett said.

The Siletz Tribe of Oregon also received a Climate Showcase Community grant of $323,305. Seattle and Hailey, Idaho, were the only other Northwest cities honored this year.

Contact reporter Nancy Raskauskas at nancy.raskauskas@lee.net or 541-758-9542.

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