Frequently Asked Questions
- Has anyone mentioned requirements or guidance concerning disposal of sanitary or hazardous waste generated by project activities? See Page 7 of the Special Terms and Conditions?
Answer: If a project would generate solid or hazardous waste, the proposer must include a detailed plan for proper handling and disposal of the those wastes before review of the proposal for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. While such a waste stream is not the only type of activity that is subject to NEPA review, it is one of the more sensitive areas for which the U.S. Department of Energy wants to make it clear that when a categorical exclusion has been granted for a qualifying activity, such as building energy efficiency retrofits, the exclusion does not apply if a hazardous waste stream would be generated as a part of the activity that was categorically excluded.
- The Environmental Questionnaire (Part II - Instructions) requests that "if the proposed project includes activities at different locations, an independent questionnaire should be prepared for each location." This locality's work will involve retrofits at four different buildings located adjacent to each other in the same complex. Will they have to prepare a questionnaire for each building?
- When will the grants be awarded (available around January or February?—or earlier?) and when could grantees begin spending the grant funds?
Answer: DMME intends to rank applications and make awards within two-three weeks of receiving all proposals. Assuming there is no delay caused by the need for a NEPA review, money should be available immediately after the award, according to the terms on Page 3 of the application: All EECBG grant award payments will be contingent on program compliance and timely reporting and will be made on a reimbursement basis after work is completed according to a milestone schedule to be proposed by the applicant and used in a final grant agreement.
- Can you use funds you have already spent as leverage? (i.e., if you have already spent $ for an energy audit, can you use that as leveraging for a retrofit project?)
Answer: Only prospective spending can be included as leveraged dollars in the project budget on Page 6 of the application and in box 15 on Page 4. However, it might be beneficial in the narrative to describe past and planned investments that are related to and would be supportive of a proposed project. This could help to demonstrate the beneficial impacts on the proposed project of recent financial and non-financial forms of leveraging, such as existing community engagement, infrastructure and other resources already in place or in development, and provide proposal context in a broader plan or process.
- What is the process for verifying job creation/retention?
Answer: The U.S. Department of Energy has indicated that a new uniform methodology for counting jobs created or preserved by Recovery Act-funded proposals will be forthcoming. For now, no verification of jobs is needed. DMME does not know if the new DOE methodology will calculate jobs by rule or include requirements for verification. For now, use the rule of thumb provided by DOE for projecting jobs impacts during the application process: Each $92,000 in total spending of federal and non-federal funds (if any) will produce or preserve one job. The DOE estimated benefits calculator on Page 7 of the application calculates one job for each $92,000 of proposed spending.
- The Form Section G has a space for you to enter the MW of power installed. Ours is 150 kW (0.15 MW) but when you enter this in the form it rounds it to zero. I doubt there will be many MW installed or proposed for $9.7 million available so it might be helpful for the form to be revised to kW. - What should the applicant do about this?
Answer: The estimated benefits calculator accepts fractional MWs. The team will look at the application data field to see if it could be revised.
- If an Environmental Assessment for the project has been prepared, submitted for required comment, and a FONSI has been issued (all of the required environmental clearances have been secured and the FONSI is attached in the application narrative), does the applicant still need to submit the pre-NEPA environmental questionnaire?
Answer: Fill out the cover pages of the EQ, Pages 1 and 2 and check the other box at the bottom of Page 2. Use the text block to say "see FONSI, attached."
- Our County was recently awarded a CDBG for $999,998.00 to rehab or substantially rebuild 27 homes in the County. This funding was not part of the CDBG-R program but will accomplish the same deliverables by installing energy efficient windows, insulation, energy efficient appliances, reduced carbon footprint, etc. Can I use this CDBG award as leverage?
Answer: The desirability of coordination with and leveraging of CDBG programs is specifically cited in the EECBG FOA and on Page 7 of the application guidelines.
- Can a locality look at this grant opportunity to further their vision on public transportation? Transit did a feasibility study and has awarded them with a trolley grant – they have ideas as to pilot projects using this new grant opportunity – signage, etc. Also, since a feasibility study was already conducted, are they in the transportation category which requires the environmental questionnaire?
Answer: Activities 7 and 14 provide extraordinary flexibility to an applicant interested in a transportation program. The applicability of NEPA depends on which category the project falls under in Activity 7. When a project is well-defined, filling out the NEPA EQ can help an applicant determine whether a project has environmental impacts that should be reviewed.
- Would hooking up an existing solar array already built on county land require the NEPA questionnaire ? (category 13? – yet it is not a building, just on the ground)
Answer: If the solar array will serve a building or facility, regardless of whether it is ground or roof mounted, owned by the eligible entity (the county I assume?), the project would seem to fall into Category 13 and require an EQ. Projects in categories, such as 13, that were not categorically excluded still may be excluded after individual review. The exclusion might be quickly granted if the EQ and description made it clear that federal funds would be used for electrical work, for example.
- a) Town Hall Energy Efficiency Improvements- new historic windows, programmable thermostats and energy efficient windows, furnace and lighting - would this be in the “other” category due to historic, and hence need an environmental questionnaire? Or would it fall into category 5 energy efficiency retrofits (still needing an environmental questionnaire)?
Answer: See answer to question 1 above. It would not matter under which category funds are requested for the project if modification or work on a historical structure is involved. Here is the pertinent language from the special terms imposed by DOE on DMME. The terms are available at the first link under "tools and resources" on the EECBG webpage:
Prior to the expenditure of Federal funds to alter any structure or site, the Recipient is required to comply with the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), consistent with DOE’s 2009 letter of delegation of authority regarding the NHPA. Section 106 applies to historic properties that are listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. In order to fulfill the requirements of Section 106, the recipient must contact the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), and, if applicable, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO), to coordinate the Section 106 review outlined in 36 CFR Part 800. SHPO contact information is available at the following link: http://www.ncshpo.org/find/index.htm. THPO contact information is available at the following link: http://www.nathpo.org/map.html.
Section 110(k) of the NHPA applies to DOE funded activities. Recipients shall avoid taking any action that results in an adverse effect to historic properties pending compliance with Section 106.
Recipients should be aware that the DOE Contracting Officer will consider the recipient in compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA only after the Recipient has submitted adequate background documentation to the SHPO/THPO for its review, and the SHPO/THPO has provided written concurrence to the Recipient that it does not object to its Section 106 finding or determination. Recipient shall provide a copy of this concurrence to the Contracting Officer.
- A locality wants to purchase and install LED signals, and synchronize existing signals. These two fall into different categories 12 and 7. Category 7 requires the NEPA questionnaire, 12 does not. Do they go on separate applications? Or could the synchronization of signals be part of the new street light program, and only use category 12?
Answer: Both Categories 7E and 12 are categorically excluded from NEPA review. However, a project consists of a single activity.Two or more separate activities require separate applications. The application form doesn't explain that a project can only be a single activity but it notes the reason for that: Eligible localities that wish to submit multiple projects for funding consideration must complete a separate application form for each project so that project-specific impact and leveraging differences can be evaluated by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy (DMME).
- Is there anything that we need to know about budget items for fringe benefits, travel and indirect charges? Any limitations, etc?
Answer: The budget template includes the expense categories contained on the SF 424A. That form with instructions can be downloaded from GAO, OMB and other federal websites. There is nothing unusual or special about the budget form for the EECBG proposals, except that we hope it will make DMME's required reporting easier by providing a uniform format.
- If the PDC is the applicant on a regional project for four eligible local governments, who would actually be the recipient of the funds (and as a result responsible for invoicing, payments etc.), the PDC or the four eligible local governments?
Answer: DMME's program officer at DOE said Virginia has discretion to make a block grant award to a PDC that leads a consortium of one or more eligible localities. If a PDC received such an award, it would be responsible for invoicing, reporting and other compliance requirements.
- I have a question regarding the eligible projects for the EECBG. Can we submit for a project that is on land owned by VDOT? We are still in the discussion stages, but we were wondering if park and ride upgrades and expansions would be eligible if they are located within county boundaries, but on land within the VDOT right-of-way.
Answer: Use of VDOT property would not be an issue, as long as the grant applicant is an eligible entity and the proposal is an eligible activity. Purchase of land, for example, is not an eligible use of EECBG funds. The value of the VDOT right-of-way and other supportive in-kind contributions might be included as leveraged non-federal funds if VDOT would provide a letter of support for the project that establishes a value for the right of way and other support.
- We held a training session for our localities this morning and a good question came up. It has to do with localities coming together to do a similar project in several places. We have multiple jurisdictions that are interested in energy retrofits of some of the government buildings. The question is each locality is slightly different in the scope of the work they want to accomplish. For example, one locality would like to do new windows, new insulation, new heating and air, while another locality just wants to do a new HVAC system, and yet another is just looking at some lighting and possible windows. Should we advise them to come together under a building retrofit application with all these separate activities to become a multi-jurisdictional project since some of the pieces match up, or because they are so diverse in their needs should they apply separately and see how the projects rank out individually?
Answer: Regional approaches are encourged and eligible. However, it could be a daunting challenge to combine multi-jurisdictional and geographically dispersed building energy retrofit activities that are functionally diverse. And the effort probably could not produce economy of scale benefits. A mulitjurisdictional strategy might be feasible, but perhaps no less challenging to coordinate, if all jurisdictions were focused on a single energy efficiency measure, such as lighting upgrades.
- We are interested in applying for an EECBG grant for a municipal building expansion and energy retrofit project. We have been working on the design and development of the project for the last 24 months and have solicited bids from contractors. We are hoping to award the bid in November 2009. My question concerns the timing of awarding the bid. Will awarding a contract in November 2009 preclude the City from being eligible for EECBG funds?
Answer: Possibly. Funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act cannot be used to supplant other funds. An eligible entity can receive an award of EECBG funds for an eligible activity that is ongoing, but the EECBG funds must be supplemental. The EECBG funds must pay for additional activites that were not otherwise funded, activites that would not otherwise have occurred.
- Would a drawing in PDF form be acceptable as an explanatory/illustrative item to support an application?
Answer: Yes. To ensure that a drawing is not overlooked by reviewers, it might be best to include it as an appendix to the detailed project narrative.
- I understand that “regional” proposals will be looked upon more favorably so I wanted to get clarification on what constitutes regional (adjoining counties/different segments of government/county-towns, etc.)
Answer: Multijurisdictional or regional programs are encouraged because they can be more cost effective, sustainable and more likely to endure when Recovery Act funds no longer are available. They could include almost any combination of two or more localities that are logical partners for a particular project or program. The nature of the program or project would determine whether there is a need for and the possible benefits that could arise from a cooperative approach. Not every program or project requires or would benefit from a regional approach.
- Could an eligible locality request funding to pay for replacement and upgrades of the HVAC and roof of a non-profit organization's manufacturing facility (eligible activities - #5 Energy Efficiency Retrofits)?
Answer: Energy efficiency retrofits of existing buildings qualify under activity 5. Roof work could be problematic. EECBG funds are not intended to be used for maintenance and repairs. Roof replacement/upgrade in some circumstances might be considered as primarily an energy conservation measure, but in other cases it could be primarily a structural remedy that provides improved energy efficiency as a secondary benefit. If a roof is worn out and must be repaired or replaced to preserve structural integrity, for instance, it would not be reasonable to describe the roof replacement as an energy efficiency improvement, even if the replacement roof would be more energy efficient.
- A question about a community recycling program to apply for EECBG funding, under Activity 10. May applicant purchase recycling bins and include costs of cleaning up and improving the appearance of a convenience site? How about construction / expansion of a citizen convenience site (recycling site)?
Answer: The focus of activity 10 is on programs, but activity 14 provides great flexibility to localities to propose programs and projects. EECBG funds are not intended for maintenance and repairs.
- A question about propane conversion for a fleet of city vehicles - should this considered 7i? Also, what environmental documentation will be required for such a project?
Answer: Activity 7i describes idle reduction technology or facilities, not conversion of vehicles to operate on propane. If fleet conversion is proposed under activity 14 it will not qualify for categorical NEPA exclusion. A NEPA environmental questionnaire would be required.
- Under what activity could one propose the following: construction of new classroom and lab to provide instruction in agriculture and energy related classes (classroom and lab will utilize green building technologies); Retain one full-time teaching position; Provide instruction in energy related classes.
Answer: While there is wide latitude to develop a project under Activity 14, it does not appear that construction of a classroom or lab meets the objectives of the Virginia program or the intent of the enabling federal legislation and program guidance, even though the new facility might house an eligible educational program. Activity 13 would allow installation of renewable energy technologies on or in a government building.
Retention of a full-time teaching position could be considered a prohibited use of these federal funds to "supplant" rather than "supplement" nonfederal funds. An eligible activity or program could include personnel costs, however.
- What is the definition of a “revolving loan program” for the purposes of the grant application?
Answer: The description of a "revolving loan program" can be found at the EECBG Solution Center website, http://www.eecbg.energy.gov/solutioncenter/eligibleactivities/. Click on Financial Incentive Programs on the left sidebar, then in the Best Practices box, click on "Revolving Loans Funding", which explains the basic structure of an RLF and how to set one up.
- Why does a “financial incentive program” eligible activity (#4) require a DOE Environmental Questionnaire to be filled out and included with the application?
Answer: Because of the potential far-ranging nature of possible activities that could be supported by Activity 4, it is not possible to provide a blanket exemption. A program under Activity 4 still might qualify for a categorical exemption, but the program first has to be reviewed and that determination made by a NEPA compliance officer at the U.S. Department of Energy.
- We have a multi-county application to establish a recycling program in the localities' schools. The Planning District Commission will act as the lead applicant on behalf of the counties. The question: Can the PDC designate the Soil & Water Conservation District as the administrative/fiscal agent for the project?
Answer: Yes, the PDC can reach agreement with another organization to act as the administrative and fiscal agent, but the organization that receives the award, the PDC, will continue to have responsibility to ensure that all reporting is complete and timely and for compliance with all other terms and conditions. The award agreement will be between DMME and the PDC.
- Our proposal is focused on the development of a technical center that will offer certification in new building codes to plan reviewers, inspectors, and builders, as well as energy efficiency educational programs to the general public. The outcome of the proposed programs will result in opportunities for homeowners, builders and localities to take advantage of various federal programs that incentivize energy efficiency. Is it appropriate to list these programs as leverage? If so, how might they be quantified?
Answer: How far down the chain of indirect impacts and leveraging one goes is a subjective judgment. If quantification of leveraged funds is problematic, that might be an indication that the leverage is too far down the chain of indirect impacts and, therefore, somewhat speculative to quantify. From the description of the project it seems that there would be considerable direct leveraging of local offices, staff and programs, such as zoning, building codes, land use and planning. It might be appropriate to address leveraging of other federal programs and incentives in your program goals. For example, a goal/outcome from educational workshops could be to verify that at least 200 residential property owners make energy efficiency improvements to their homes in 2010 that would qualify for $100,000 in federal energy income tax credits and avoid 20,000 annual kilowatt hours of electrical energy use.
- Project activity entails the replacement of the existing (outdated and very inefficient) heating and cooling system with a more efficient one within an existing job training/manufacturing facility. The disposal of the existing system will be done in-kind . Does this fall under Group A-7b or Group A-7c of the Environmental Questionnaire?
Answer: If the EQ is required because this is activity 5, chose "Other," which is below A-7C on the EQ form, and describe the nature of the activity as replacing existing HVAC components in an existing building to improve energy efficiency. Unless it is possible to chose A-7A, the EQ must be completed and a NEPA Contract Officer must review it and make a determination to approve a categorical exclusion. Additional guidance from DOE on expedited NEPA review of certain EECBG subgrants has been developed that would reduce or eliminate the submission of EF1s for specific activities that fall within the boundaries defined in the template. This guidance has been posted on the EECBG webpage for review.
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