Related Rural Blog Posts

  • Interior Department Helps Indian Country Go Green

    Cross-posted from the Department of the Interior blog

    Yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a Record of Decision approving the lease and associated right of way for a 350-megawatt utility-scale solar energy project on the Moapa River Indian Reservation. This is the first-ever, utility-scale solar project in Indian Country, and joins the 50-megawatt wind farm on the Campo Reservation as the only utility-scale developments on tribal lands.

    The solar project builds on President Obama’s strong record of supporting rural economies through the White House Rural Council. Established one year ago, the Rural Council has focused on maximizing the impact of Federal investment to promote economic prosperity and improve the quality of life in rural communities, including on tribal lands.

    The project is also a part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above approach to energy and builds on the Administration’s broader efforts to advance renewable energy on America’s public lands. Since 2009, the Department of the Interior has approved 31 onshore renewable energy projects, including: 17 solar projects, 6 wind farms, and 8 geothermal plants. These projects include the first solar projects ever permitted on public lands. When built, these projects together can power nearly 2.5 million homes.

    This landmark project is one of the many ways the Administration has sought to strengthen tribal economies through the development of renewable energy resources. The Interior Department has promoted this commitment by establishing a priority project list comprised of renewable energy projects on public lands. The Moapa project is a great beginning, and it is our hope that as Interior prioritizes renewable energy projects for 2013 and beyond, Tribes’ interests and developers interests in building renewable energy projects on tribal lands continues to grow.

    In early 2011 the Moapa Band of Paiutes came to the Interior Department with their development partner, K Road Power, to discuss their plans and after initial discussions, BIA recommended that the project be included on the Department’s Priority Project list. Since that initial meeting the project has exemplified what can be achieved when the Federal government, Indian tribes, and private partners work together in pursuit of a common goal. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), through its Western Regional Office, served as the lead agency on the project. Due to its status as the first major solar energy development in Indian Country, the project quickly caught the attention of Secretary Salazar, who often inquired about its progress. Officials within Secretary Salazar’s office and the office of the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs participated in weekly calls discussing the project and attended a number of site visits and meetings with the Tribe and K Road. This heightened coordination between the BIA and its federal partners allowed the Department to complete its review within 14 months.

    Construction is set to begin in the early fall, and the Moapa Band of Paiutes is already progressing on to their next solar project. The Administration is excited about further renewable energy development in Indian Country and is taking action to help duplicate the success of the K Road Moapa Project by providing tribes the tools they need to address the challenges directly. We have been working on new regulations to streamline the process of leasing tribal lands, which will return greater control over land use decisions to tribes and individual landowners, and promote housing and economic development throughout Indian Country. Within the DOI, the Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development (IEED) awards Energy and Mineral Development Program (EMDP) funding to tribes to help evaluate their energy resource potential.

    Collaborating with the Department of Energy's Office of Indian Energy on this project and other projects, interagency efforts are underway to compliment and coordinate tribal energy development. The Department of Energy has been also providing technical assistance to the Moapa Band related to distributed hybrid and renewable energy options for their community and facilities.

    This same week, the Department of Energy announced Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) program selections for lower 48 Tribes. The START program is providing tribal communities and Alaska native villages with technical assistance to accelerate clean energy project development, advance energy self-sufficiency, and create jobs. START teams are comprised of experts from DOE and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory. START just recently selected 11 Tribes—five in Alaska and six in the contiguous United States—to receive on-the-ground technical support for community-based energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

    The Energy Department also recently launched a tribal energy development resources library providing links to more than 85 vetted publications, websites, and other helpful resources on energy project development and financing in Indian Country. This library can be accessed online at here.

    Finally, Energy Department this week announced the appointment of 3 additional tribal members for the DOE Indian Country Energy and Infrastructure Working Group. Established in 2011, this Working Group is comprised of appointed tribal energy leaders from across the Nation to discuss the most pressing issues facing tribal energy development. Working Group members have led the way in strategic interactions with key energy sector players to share best practices and discuss emerging markets and opportunities for innovative public-private partnerships." President Obama is committed to strengthening tribal communities. This Administration will continue to provide tribes with the tools and resources they need to foster energy self-sufficiency, create jobs, and build a sustainable, prosperous future.

    For more information on the K Road Moapa Project, click here

    Jodi Gillette is Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council
    Del Laverdure is Acting Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs
    Tracey A. LeBeau is Director for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs


  • Strengthening the Rural Economy

    Ed. Note: This piece has been cross-posted from the blog of the USDA

    This has been an important week for the White House Rural Council – a partnership between multiple Federal agencies, created by President Obama last year to focus and coordinate our efforts to create jobs in rural America and support American agriculture.

    We marked the one-year anniversary of the Council on June 11; and on the same day, the Rural Council released a report alongside the White House Council of Economic Advisors and USDA that notes significant progress in our efforts to grow the rural economy.  But President Obama and I also know that there’s more to be done.

    Over the past three years, the rural economy has strengthened. Last year, U.S. farm sector income reached a nominal record of $98.1 billion and record agricultural exports supported nearly a $43 billion trade surplus and 1.15 million American jobs.

    But this week’s report also reflected a strong belief I share with President Obama – that while progress has been made, we still have a great deal of work to do. It’s not time to let up.

  • Supporting Appalachian Communities

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Earl F. Gohl, Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

    Throughout the Appalachian Region there is an incredible group of folks who get up each day and work to make their communities better places for their kids and grandkids. These folks have a variety of hopes and dreams, skills and talents; they are teachers, entrepreneurs, health care workers and myriad of other occupations and avocations. Meeting them, getting to know them, and seeing their energy, dedication and creativity is incredibly inspiring.

    The challenge for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is to figure out ways to partner with these “spark plugs” to support their work and help them achieve their dreams.

    The White House Rural Council provided ARC with a forum to do just this. Through the Rural Council ARC has developed the Livable Communities Initiative, a partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA RD) that provides technical assistance to small rural towns to help them develop and implement strategies for making their communities more livable and competitive. ARC has learned that early technical support and advice like this is often the critical piece of the development puzzle that provides the necessary boost to help a community succeed. Seven Appalachian communities will be receiving this Livable Communities technical assistance support.

    Recently I had the opportunity to visit with the leaders of three Appalachian communities who requested and were selected to receive this technical assistance. The towns of Uhrichsville in Ohio, and Connellsville and Brownsville in Pennsylvania have all devised ways to take what they already have, whether unused buildings or parking lots, and turn them into community assets.


    Earl Gohl meets with a group of local high school student leaders in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Herald-Standard)

    I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Brownsville, Pennsylvania, where the proposal was initiated by a group of local high school students who were also recognized by the Jefferson Awards competition in April. It was their creative and entrepreneurial idea to transform a vacant lot into a traditional town square to revitalize and galvanize their downtown. One of the students told the local newspaper, “Brownsville is not what it once was. Our project hopes to bring back community spirit, to be a shot in the arm of adrenaline.” The above photo shows me with the students, and their teacher Kelli Dellarose. 

    Similar enthusiasm marked the work I saw in Uhrichsville and Connellsville, where a strong network of local partners, public and private, is committed to achieving the community’s vision. In each community, I was met by a large contingent of active and engaged project supporters. As Michael Edwards, executive director of the Connellsville Redevelopment Authority, said during my visit, the technical assistance provided by the ARC-EPA-USDA partnership was advancing a revitalization project on which “many organizations, community volunteers, and city officials have worked diligently.”

    Because of the work of the White House Rural Council, those student “sparkplugs” in Brownsville and enthusiastic community partners in Connellsville and Uhrichsville, as well as in communities across Appalachia, have a better opportunity to use local assets to achieve their dreams and create more vibrant local economies. I am looking forward to spending the next few months visiting with these Livable Communities winners and seeing how their visions come to life.

    Earl F. Gohl is the Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission

  • One Year Later: What We’re Doing on the White House Rural Council

    As someone who was born and raised on a ranch in Colorado, I know firsthand that rural communities are home to some of the most hard-working and self-reliant Americans.  I also know that the struggles facing these families are not unlike those confronting Americans across the country: we want our children to receive a world-class education; we want access to quality and affordable health care; we want job opportunities and vibrant local economies; and we want to leave a stronger America for our children and grandchildren to inherit.

  • Making Broadband Construction Faster and Cheaper

    Tomorrow, the President will sign an Executive Order to make broadband construction along Federal roadways and properties up to 90 percent cheaper and more efficient.  Currently, the procedures for approving broadband infrastructure projects on properties controlled or managed by the Federal Government—including large tracts of land, roadways, and more than 10,000 buildings across the Nation—vary depending on which agency manages the property. The new Executive Order will ensure that agencies charged with managing Federal properties and roads take specific steps to adopt a uniform approach for allowing broadband carriers to build networks on those assets.  It will also allow service providers to deploy broadband while roads are under construction, a practice that hugely cuts costs.

    Additionally, at an event beginning at 9am ET tomorrow, the White House will announce that nearly 100 partners—including cities, national research institutions, and industry supporters—have formed a new public-private partnership called “US Ignite.” The US Ignite Partnership will create a new wave of services that take advantage of state-of-the-art broadband networks running up to 100 times faster than today’s Internet.  By bringing together government agencies, private companies, and communities, the partnership aims to accelerate the development of applications for advanced manufacturing, medical monitoring, emergency preparedness, and a host of other services. These applications will improve services to Americans, drive job creation, promote innovation, and create new markets for American businesses.

    We Can't Wait: Broadband Construction Map

    The President’s Executive Order and the US Ignite partnership are a two-pronged approach to help speed the delivery of connectivity to communities, businesses, and schools across the Nation. “By connecting every corner of our country to the digital age,” President Obama said. “We can help our businesses become more competitive, our students become more informed, and our citizens become more engaged."

    Learn more about US Ignite’s current projects in Cleveland, OH, Chattanooga, TN, and Clemson/Portland.

    For a complete list of US Ignite’s partners and initiatives across the country, check out their interactive map.

    Learn more:

    Read about additional actions President Obama has taken to support middle class Americans

  • Key Federal Agencies Collaborate to Provide Funding and Support for Rural America

    On Tuesday, June 12, three federal agencies announced a new project to assist high-need rural areas facing chronic poverty along the U.S.-Mexico border. This new project is part of a series of initiatives delivered through the White House Rural Council, which recently released a report detailing the steps President Obama and this administration have taken to support rural America.

    The Border Community Capital Initiative (“Border Initiative”) is a collaborative effort among the Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RA), Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These three federal agencies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and, together, will increase economic development activity at a community level throughout these high need areas, known as colonias.

    Colonias are communities within 150 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. These high-need communities frequently lack fundamental resources such as sanitary housing, access to potable water, and adequate sewage systems. Under the Border Initiative, up to $200,000 will be made available to nonprofit and tribal financial institutions serving colonias. These funds will be used for direct investment and technical assistance focused on providing access to valuable resources that these communities lack.

    Previous federal programs with similar goals have faced significant barriers in implementation, such as limited capacity among organizations serving colonias and a lack of stable funding available to them. The Border Initiative is tailored to correct for this by directing funds toward improving the capacity of local financial institutions to raise capital and increase lending; and boosting investment in their communities.