EPA Kicks Off Nationwide 'Green Capitals' Initiative

EPA Kicks Off Nationwide 'Green Capitals' Initiative

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is offering comprehensive technical assistance to state capitals for the design and development of more sustainable neighborhoods -- ones that incorporate green building and infrastructure to foster social, economic and environmental benefits.

The program called Greening America's Capitals is a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaborative effort involving the EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

Under the program, design teams provided and funded by the EPA are to work with the cities to transform neighborhoods into models of sustainability.

The program is competitive and as many as four capitals will be selected to participate each year. The EPA announced the program last week and invited letters of interest to be submitted no later than July 9. The capitals chosen for the inaugural year will be announced in the fall.

The new program is the latest example of a growing effort to make communities more sustainable. 

In April, the U.S. Green Building Council launched the LEED rating system for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) as a national benchmark for community design. USGBC President, CEO and Founding Chair Rick Fedrizzi has described LEED-ND as the vision for "the next generation of green building thinking" and an opportunity to apply lessons learned from individual green buildings to entire neighborhoods.

The unveiling of the Greening America's Capitals program came on the heels of the annual U.S Conference of Mayors meeting.

In their 78th annual session, the mayors approved numerous resolutions on energy and the environment, including measures supporting policy and efforts to make communities -- and the buildings in them -- greener. In resolutions praised by the USGBC, the mayors:

  • Signaled their support for sustainable development in cities by calling on Congress to adopt the Livable Communities Act, the Enhancing Livability for All Americans Act, or similar legislation. The group also said it backs full funding for the Sustainable Communities Partnership in the president's budget. In a separate measure, the mayors said they will continue working with the EPA, HUD and the DOT to advance the agencies' partnership and its principles. 

  • Called on local governments to adopt Green Building Codes and the International Green Construction Code

  • Recognized the benefits of energy financing districts in making commercial and residential energy efficiency retrofit possible. Called on state lawmakers to adopt legislation enabling the establishment of such districts and mechanisms that include Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) bonds and Benefit Assessed Clean Energy (BACE), Clean Energy Assessment Districts (CEAD), contractual assessments, sustainable energy financing and special tax districts.

  • Called for its members to partner with local school districts to implement green initiatives. 

  • Supported green affordable housing and financing by calling for Congress to adopt the Green Act, the Energy Efficiency in Housing Act or similar legislation to modernize the U.S. housing market through energy efficient  and location efficient mortgages.

The full text of all the resolutions is available at www.usmayors.org/resolutions/78th_Conference/adoptedresolutionsfull.pdf

Image of Boston buildings CC licensed by Flickr user David Paul Ohmer.