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Idaho applies for federal funds to tackle climate change 

Boise River
Murphy Woodhouse
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho is moving forward with a federally-funded project aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The state’s Department of Environmental Quality is leading the Gem State Air Quality Initiative. Last fall, DEQ asked state agencies, cities and counties what they would do if they received federal assistance.

“We had over 200 project ideas – a great response from everyone,” said Mary Anderson, the air quality planning bureau chief for DEQ. Many of the proposals target Idaho’s top sources of emissions, like managing methane from cows in the agricultural sector to transitioning transportation fleets from gas to electric or alternative fuels.

“Working to provide funding for expansion of biking and walking, pedestrian sidewalks and bike paths, public transport,” Anderson said.

This week DEQ submitted a $100 million grant proposal on behalf of Idaho to the Environmental Protection Agency in hopes of securing funding for some of these projects, which it emphasized will be voluntary.

The proposal focused on five areas:

  • Sustainable agriculture and healthy soils 
  • Energy efficiency in K-12 schools 
  • Sustainable land management to reduce wildfire, pest and disease risks
  • Conservation of open or agricultural land, including through easements 
  • Waste diversion, such as expanding composting and recycling programs 

Additionally, cities, counties and Tribes can submit their own proposals.
For example, Boise asked for $9 million to support municipal building electrification, urban tree planting, expansion of geothermal energy, solar installation on city buildings and the conversion of 30 city vehicles to EVs.

Idaho must also submit a comprehensive climate action plan to the EPA, including a detailed report of greenhouse gas sources, by mid-2025. This will be the first inventory of Idaho’s carbon footprint since 2010, and will also establish greenhouse gas reduction targets. Unlike many Western states, Idaho lacks state-issued climate goals.

Since the state has started largely from scratch, meeting the EPA’s deadlines has been a challenge.

“We really could not do a true outreach and engagement like DEQ likes to do,” Anderson said.

However, she said more community engagement and input will come as the agency drafts the comprehensive climate action plan. DEQ’s new budget includes funding for two full-time staff members dedicated to this effort, using federal money.

During legislative budget hearings in March, several state lawmakers strongly objected to DEQ’s acceptance of federal money and its implementation of federal regulations. The agency's supplemental budget request received 41 no votes among Republicans in both bodies. Gov. Brad Little signed it into law March 21.

The EPA is expected to announce grant recipients from a $4.6 billion competitive pool this summer.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on X @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover environmental issues, outdoor recreation and local news for Boise State Public Radio. Beyond reporting, I contribute to the station’s digital strategy efforts and enjoy thinking about how our work can best reach and serve our audience. The best part of my job is that I get to learn something new almost every day.

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