AUSTIN — Comptroller Susan Combs announced Sept. 25 that local and state governmental bodies may apply to compete for $30 million in grants from the Distributed Renewable Energy Technology Program.
These are federal stimulus funds. Grant monies received can be used to install solar panels, small wind turbines or other types of renewable energy directly at a public facility to generate electricity for the place.
The idea is to reduce demand on power plants and to cut greenhouse gas emissions from those power plants.
Governmental bodies that receive grants “could look at using these grants at city halls, county courthouses or school campuses, and energy saving opportunities may also exist in places such as libraries and public zoos,” Combs said.
The grants are capped at $2 million each and can be used for projects that use biomass, geothermal, solar, water and wind installations. Governmental bodies have until Oct. 30 to apply.
In other energy news, Gov. Rick Perry on Sept. 22 said proposed federal cap and trade legislation would increase the cost of living for Texas families and “crush Texas and the nation’s energy producing sectors.”
The governor made the comment while speaking at a forum hosted by the Public Utility Commission, the Railroad Commission and the Commission on Environmental Quality.
The cap and trade bill, or the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, is sponsored by U.S. Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Edward Markey, D-Mass. Primarily, the bill requires a 17 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020.
ACORN receives no state funds
State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Humble, on Sept. 17 concluded from her own investigation that ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, does not receive any dollars from state-controlled funds.
“It is my understanding from conversations my office has had with the Legislative Budget Board, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and the Secretary of State’s office, that ACORN is not receiving any taxpayer dollars directly from the state,” Riddle said.
Some county and city governments, however, may have agreements with ACORN that allow it to receive funding on a more localized level, Riddle suggested.
“There’s a clear direction from both the Census Bureau and Congress that governments at every level need to put some distance between themselves and this group’s illegal activities,” Riddle said.
“If your local governments are giving money away to an organization that supports voter fraud, prostitution, and money laundering, then they need to hear from you!” she added.
On Sept. 21, the U.S. Senate voted to halt the funding ACORN receives from Housing and Urban Development grants.
Transportation projects OK’d
The Texas Transportation Commission met on Sept. 24 and approved 10 projects valued at a total of $273 million to be funded by the Texas Department of Transportation’s pass-through finance program.
A state highway department news release states, “The program is often referred to as the Pass-Through Toll Finance program. While the term ‘toll’ in the program’s title denotes a fee associated with travel on a particular facility, it does not imply that a physical toll collection will take place on a transportation facility that becomes part of the program.”
Municipalities and private entities, under the program, pay for a transportation project up front and get reimbursed from the state as the transportation project becomes operational. It lets local officials reprioritize and accelerate projects important to the region, TxDOT said.
Flu classified as widespread
The Texas Department of State Health Service’s latest flu report, for the week ending Sept. 19, classifies flu activity in Texas as widespread.
The term “widespread” is used when there are increases in flu-like illnesses and recent lab-confirmed flu cases in at least half of the state’s regions.
The Department of State Health Services said it has confirmed 15 flu-associated pediatric deaths in Texas from the start of the 2008-2009 flu season last fall.
1960s campaigner dies
Donald Yarborough, 83, the Houston lawyer and Democrat who ran for governor three times in the 1960s, died Sept. 23.
Yarborough ran for lieutenant governor in 1960 and lost. He lost against incumbent Gov. Price Daniel and John Connally, both Democrats, in 1962. Connally won.
Yarborough lost again to Connally in 1964 and lost to Preston Smith in 1968.