How Will Obama’s Sustainability Team Spend Its $150M? A Preview

Before the U.S. DOT gave some early clues as to how the agency would craft its new transit funding rules, deputy housing and urban development (HUD) secretary Ron Sims answered another question that’s been on the minds of transit and local-planning wonks: How will the Obama administration’s three-agency partnership for sustainable communities spend its $150 million in funding for this year?

2008528267.jpgDeputy HUD Secretary Ron Sims (Photo: Seattle Times)

Here’s what senior officials are thinking, Sims told the U.S. Conference of Mayors:

  • $100 million is set aside for grants to local communities that present innovative energy-efficiency plans.
  • $40 million is set aside for grants to encourage enactment of local zoning and planning reform that makes mixed-use, transit-oriented development more feasible.
  • $10 million is set aside for research into "the link between transportation and the built environment," Sims said, with an eye to creating location-efficient mortgages that take mobility costs into account.

After Sims spoke, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson told the mayors that the nation’s ongoing economic crisis would require managing local growth in new ways.

"The boom in commercial and residential real estate drove us, and it was good … but we now know that there are some impacts to sustainability from that growth," Jackson said.

"We continue to do the hard work of pulling ourselves out of the economic decline, and part of that work" is growing more smartly, she added.

One question Jackson did not address, despite questions from reporters after her speech: congressional efforts to prevent the EPA from taking action against carbon emissions if Congress fails to pass a climate bill this year.

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