Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today celebrated 2015 Earth Day on April 22 by announcing support for projects to improve rural water and wastewater services, promote renewable energy, and promote the efficient use of energy resources.
USDA is providing more than $112 million in loans and grants to help rural communities build and upgrade their water and energy infrastructure systems.
USDA is providing the funding for water and wastewater infrastructure projects through the Rural Development Water and Environmental Program.
"Not only do projects such as these help ensure communities have access to clean water and affordable energy, they also create jobs and boost the economy," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said.
USDA Under Secretary Lisa Mensah visited an Earth Day project in Henderson, Md. The town is receiving a $175,000 grant to make emergency repairs to its water system.
A combination of unusually cold temperatures in February and high demand caused the aging system to fail – leaving the town's 146 residents temporarily without water. A temporary solution is keeping the wells in operation, but significant repairs to the water supply system are needed to ensure a continued water supply.
Vilsack noted that this year's Earth Day celebrations also highlight the role of renewable energy systems in maintaining environmental quality.
Twenty-five organizations have been selected for energy audit and renewable energy development assistance grants through the USDA Rural Energy for America Program. The grants support programs to help agricultural producers and rural small businesses evaluate energy efficiency systems and determine the most effective and affordable method of incorporating renewable energy technologies into their operations. Eligible recipients are government bodies, utilities and institutions of higher education.
In all, USDA is funding 37 water and wastewater projects and 25 renewable energy projects totaling more than $112 million. Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan, grant, or loan/grant agreement.
Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about what individuals can do to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment.