Feds, Mayors Group Announce Plans for Clean Cities

Feds, Mayors Group Announce Plans for Clean Cities

City infrastructure, from transit to recreation, is the focus of two new greening initiatives announced last week.

Both the federal government and the National Conference of Black Mayors offered ideas, goals and, in the case of the feds, hefty sums of money, dedicated to making urban areas in the U.S. cleaner, healthier and more environmentally sustainable.

Vice President Joe Biden last week detailed the latest spending plan from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: $300 million in stimulus funds that will be dedicated to improving public transit and city vehicle fleets across the nation.

"From advanced battery cars to hybrid-electric city buses, we're going put Recovery Act dollars to work deploying cleaner, greener vehicles in cities and towns across the nation that will cut costs, reduce pollution and create the jobs that will drive our economic recovery," Biden said.

The money will launch the "Clean Cities Alternative Fuel and Advanced Technology Vehicles Pilot Program" which aims to support at least 30 alternative fuels and advanced vehicles projects. Among the technologies that can be funded are anything from natural gas and biofuels to plug-in hybrid and fuel-cell power sources for a range of vehicles. Some of the funds can also be applied to public awareness and training programs around alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure.

More information about the program, including where to apply for funds, are available from www.eere.energy.gov/cleancities

Also last week, the National Council of Black Mayors unveiled a comprehensive plan to "Green the City." In addition to applying technologies like those up for funding from the federal government, there are two other main strategies for the program: creating green-collar jobs and training programs, and expanding energy production from biomass sources.

"As elected officials, we are called to govern in extraordinary times and this does require an extraordinary sense of responsibility -- to ourselves, to the men and women who elected us into office," said Mayor Heather M. Hudson of Greenville, Miss., the president of the NCBM.

The Green the City plan will put its three-pronged strategy to work across the cityscape, from creating and expanding on park systems, green housing and offices, energy efficiency, recycling, and partnering with local colleges and universities to train a workforce to help speed this transition.

The first step of the program will get mayors applying for the Clean Cities stimulus funds to convert their cities' automobile fleet to hybrid and electric vehicles by 2015. After that, the 650 mayors in the NCBM will put stimulus dollars to work on expanding green-collar jobs and job training. The group estimates that these programs can help meet or exceed President Obama's goal of creating 3.5 million new green jobs.

Finally, the group will work on bringing farmers to the table, by harnessing energy-rich agricultural processes to create energy for use not just on farms, but in the cities they feed as well.

"Rural communities of color have the opportunity to enter the new green economy through the production of biomass," said Manning, S.C. Mayor Kevin Johnson. "If we begin to organize all of the farming resources in our communities to the production of biofuels, we can reduce our foreign dependence on oil by up to 25 percent."

Atlanta photos CC-licensed by Flickr users james.rintamaki and Payton Chung.