How Can Water Systems Pay for Aging Infrastructure?

Water systems with aging infrastructure and low revenues can employ strategies like fixed rates, green bonds and partnerships to finance repairs.


Restoring aging underground pipes is estimated to cost water systems at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years, according to the American Water Works Association.

But most water systems only take in enough money to operate what they’ve got. Only about one-third of water systems earn enough revenue to cover replacement costs, according to a 2016 industry survey of 358 qualified utility, municipal, commercial and community stakeholders by Black & Veatch.

Water usage fees and local taxes support needed capital and operational costs, providing safe drinking water using the infrastructure already in place. However, the primary concern is that the current fee rates don’t cover water utilities renewal and replacement cost for their infrastructure,” said Patricia Buckley, director for economic policy and analysis at Deloitte LLP, in a recent podcast.

Buckley, previously senior economic policy advisor to four secretaries of commerce, has put some thought into potential financial strategies to address the long-term sustainability of water systems.

Buckley stressed innovation as the only way to address the crisis. Ratepayers for the smallest utilities–there about 28,000 community water systems serving populations of 500 people or fewer–do not cover any investment costs. When communities raise water rates, conservation goes up, which decreases utility revenue. It can be a viscous cycle.

“The bottom line is that there is no simple solution. We will need to scale innovative funding solutions and technologies, as well as adopt public policies that promote innovation in the water sector,” wrote Buckley and her colleagues.

In addition to the following funding strategies, municipalities need to adopt predictive analytics and underground pipe repair technologies, as well as develop communications plans that engage and involve communities, they advised.

Fixed Fees

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been talking about full cost pricing of water services–pricing that factors all costs, “including past and future, operations, maintenance and capital costs”–since about the turn of the millennia.

This means structuring water bills not by usage–how much water each household consumes, the most common current practice–to a fixed fee that includes a portion that pays for the system’s eventual end-of-life.

Paying for system replacement is common in other industries. For example, if you take a flight lesson, the bill includes the instructor’s fee and the aircraft rental fee, which includes the engine overhaul cost per hour.

Many in the water industry for years have voiced concerns over the underpricing of public water services, foreshadowing and predicting the current crisis.

In moving to fixed fees, each municipality can decide how to structure rates, whether it’s by household income, or a flat rate. EPA talks about various rate schemes for small drinking water systems in its 2006 publication, Setting Small Drinking Water System Rates for a Sustainable Future.

Green Bonds

Buckley noted that Green Bonds, which are 100-year bonds, are another encouraging possibility for financing aging water infrastructure.

In July 2014, the water authority in Washington D.C., DC Water, issued the first municipal water 100-year green bond to finance a portion of the $350 million DC Clean Rivers Project. The project is the result of a 2005 consent decree for violations of the Clean Water Act.

Buckley said that the government plays an important part “in encouraging alternative funding mechanisms through legislation,” citing passage of a December 2015 bill that lifted a ban on the issuance of tax-exempt bonds with loans for projects under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA). WIFIA funds up to 49 percent of the cost of water, wastewater, stormwater or water reuse projects through low-interest federal loans. Prior to late 2015, funding the remaining portion through tax-exempt bonds was illegal. 

“Lifting this ban allows utilities the leeway of raising money from the public while providing tax incentives. That said, the need to repay debt is another factor that could drive utilities to raise water prices in the future,” she and her colleagues wrote.

For more information on this financial strategy, Green City Bonds has a primer on How to Issue a Green Muni Bond.

Public Private Partnerships

Buckley also cited partnership with the private sector as a way for cities to finance repairs.

Bayonne, N.J., a community of about 63,000 in the northern part of the state, entered into a joint venture partnership for both water and wastewater operations with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) and United Water, a unit of French giant Suez Environnement S.A. The city had outdated sewer and water systems and could not afford repairs on its own.

According to a 2013 report on the partnership, the city and KKR/United Water agreed to a Revenue Path Model. They locked into a fixed rate increase schedule that would assure modest future rate increases over the 40-year concession period.


Local Governments Lead on Electric Vehicle Fleets

From police vehicles to utility trucks, local governments are staying ahead of the curve when it comes to electric vehicle fleets.

Of the top four uses for electric vehicle fleets, three are utilized by local governments and municipalities, according to the experts at Fleetcarma. Local government electric vehicle fleets are helping to lead the way for a future less dependent on fossil fuels.

Besides being better for the environment, electric vehicles also offer substantial savings through reduced maintenance and fuel costs. For organizations that utilize a large amount of vehicles — such as municipal governments — the lifetime cost difference between gas-powered and electric-powered vehicles is compelling.

#1 City Sanitation Departments

While the hauling of refuse is still performed by large diesel trucks, the sanitation department in New York City has utilized an electric vehicle fleet for neighborhood inspections and other services performed by the department.

The first round of the electric vehicles were unveiled by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2011, and, following up on the success, more electric vehicles were added to the fleet in 2015.

#2 Utility Fleets

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), one of the largest utility companies in the country, began replacing many of its utility trucks with electric vehicle fleets in 2015.

In California, PG&E’s hybrid-electric cherrypickers:

  • Operate without idling
  • Utilize solar panels on the roof
  • Return power to the grid

The company has also invested in the installation of dozens of charging stations around the country, providing additional support for the push towards more personal electric vehicles.

#3 Police Departments

While the limitations of electric cars, such as speed and battery length, prevent police departments from adopting entire electric vehicle fleets, partial fleets can be used for certain police activities, such as:

  • Community outreach
  • Detective work
  • Traffic work, such as parking violations
  • Transporting officers on duty
#4 Delivery Vehicles

Though not used by public sector organizations, delivery vehicles play a crucial role in advancing clean energy initiatives in the cities they service. From reduced emissions to quieter streets, electric and hybrid delivery vehicles can make a big difference in areas looking towards clean energy and green alternatives.

Transport vehicles account for 23 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so any move towards clean and efficient energy is a step in the right direction.

The United States Postal Service purchased electric vehicle fleets for its hubs, adding 125 clean electricity-powered vehicles to the road in 2015.

Duane Reade, a New York City drugstore chain owned by Walgreens, replaced 25 percent of its fleet with electric delivery vehicles to reduce emissions, with an emphasis on the noise reduction benefit. As a matter of fact, the tops of their trucks say, “Hey, relax, I’m not the one making noise down here,” for residents looking down from building windows.

Electric Vehicle Fleets Can Help Shift the Public Towards Energy Efficient Vehicles

When public sector agencies switch to electric vehicle fleets, they can help shape the way the local community views electric-powered vehicles.

One of the largest barriers for people who are considering buying an electric vehicle is the question of when and how they will charge it. One option is for the charging stations that are purchased and installed for public fleets to be available to any resident during the day, and then reserved for charging the fleet at night.

This helps remove the barrier that stops car-buyers from looking at electric and hybrid vehicles.

Read the original article on Fleetcarma’s website.

More Cities Say Yes to Granny Apartments, ADUs

For cities that want to support granny apartments to address housing needs — its tough — but not impossible to revise local ordinances.

Granny apartments, or accessory dwelling units (ADUs), are one way to increase density in typically low-density neighborhoods. However, they’re often a hot-button issue for many communities where neighbors oppose secondary dwellings.

But, it’s getting harder for cities and metro regions to establish ordinances eliminating or reducing their numbers because of their potential as affordable housing.

Granny apartments can alleviate housing crunches in congested markets, house displaced people and provide supplementary income for homeowners, which may be needed for various reasons from property upkeep to managing expenses during retirement. ADUs are common practice in some areas outside of the United States, like Europe and Columbia.

ADUs in Small Sizes, Akin to Tiny Homes

Granny apartments, according to the U.S Agency for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in a 2008 case study publication, are separate living quarters of single-family homes, equipped with a kitchen and bathroom, that can be attached or detached from the main residence.

There’s a whole page on Pinterest with all the great ways to make small spaces livable. Granny apartment ideology, particularly with detached styles, pairs well with the minimalist Tiny House craze and is regarded by some as a valuable solve for homelessness in cities.

HUD’s case study provides examples of communities, like Santa Cruz, California, Lexington, Massachusetts, and Portland, Oregon, that implemented ADUs because they relied on existing housing stock to meet rising demand.

The ADUs Challenge & Code Paralysis

In 2016 California passed a new ADU law clearing code hurdles and potentially lowering costs to enable homeowners to build secondary dwellings on their properties. Sonoma County — which reportedly lost about 3,000 residential structures in the 2017 Northern California Wildfires — is thinking about loosening local granny apartment restrictions in developing transitional housing plans. 

Ira Belgrade, a Los Angeles homeowner who claims to be the first in the city to get a legal ADU permit for his granny apartment, runs the website YIMBLYLA.com offering encouragement and services to homeowners looking to get their illegal units above board. On his website he says that while it’s now legal, it’s complicated, but he has cracked the code. However, the city of Los Angeles is working on a local ordinance that is more restrictive than the state’s new law, according to CBS Los Angeles. The reason? Utility connections as they relate to housing standards and safety.

Arlington County, Virginia, and other areas of the Beltway around the nation’s capital, are looking to reduce restrictions after only 20 homeowners out of 28,000 eligible successfully obtained ADU licenses over the last eight years, according to the Washington Post.

Anthony Flint, who was formerly with the Office for Commonwealth Development, wrote for CityLabin 2016 that Massachusetts also struggled with utilizing granny apartments to increase housing opportunities:

Fueled by NIMBYism and concerns about density and school enrollment and parking and congestion, cities and towns wrote reams of codes requiring that property owners prove any occupants of ADUs were actually related. If not, owners could expect to be visited by inspectors checking out separate entrances and working kitchens and evidence of occupation, and brace for a fine. Eagle-eyed neighbors spotting a second mailbox or satellite dish were more than happy to alert the authorities,” Flint wrote.

It’s a code paralysis the former Governor Mitt Romney’s administration couldn’t find its way around as it sought to use existing ADUs to support Massachusetts’ smart growth and transit-oriented development goals.

Additionally, communities from San Francisco to New Orleans and New York City are concerned ADUs, along with other housing stock, could be used for short-term rentals through services like Airbnb rather than housing for residents.

Reasonable Process Established for Granny Apartments 

Flint wrote about the Colorado town of Durango that seemed to get around this code paralysis between 2009 and 2013 as it confronted housing and community development issues.

Durango updated its Land Use and Development Code, calling out ADUs as acceptable housing stock. Flint called Durango’s process reasonable because the code:

  • Limits the number of occupants — no more than five unrelated people
  • Places a minimum size of living space at 550 square feet
  • Requires the main home to be owner-occupied
  • Bans short-term vacation rentals, such as through Airbnb
  • Implements design guidelines for balconies, window placements and exterior staircases

The city chose to eliminate the possibility of absentee landlords, as well as renting spaces for tourism, Flint wrote.

No Secret Sauce for Granny Apartments

After the new code was established, the town set up an amnesty program for existing ADUs as part of its ADU Program. In exchange for becoming a legal unit in the city, owners were asked to:

  • Pay fees ranging from $2,000 to $9,000
  • Sign affidavits on structural safety
  • Provide occupancy and structural details, like utilities

Not everyone in Durango was happy, but the city stood firm, releasing the following information video to address concerns of the opposition:

HUD directs those interested to the Santa Cruz ADU Manual, and the city has a Plan Sets Book with seven prototype ADU designs, which may be purchased.

Access Santa Cruz ADU publications information on the city’s website.

Why Smart Devices Leave Cities Vulnerable to Cybersecurity Attacks

The Internet of Things has enabled hacking by people with less technical skill in 2016. Cities need to prepare for smart devices proliferation.

In 2016, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks increased, disrupting Internet services like Netflix and Twitter, sites around the Rio Olympics and all of Liberia’s Internet service. But what about when they knock out heating systems on two city blocks in winter? That happened in November 2016 to Lappeenranta, Finland, because someone or some group was able to use smart devices to hack into a facilities services company’s automated system that controlled the heat in that area of the Finnish city.

According to DarkReading.com, an online community for cybersecurity professionals, Akamai found that DDoS attacks over 100 Gbps in 2016 showed a 138 percent year-over-year increase. There were 19 mega-attacks just in the third quarter when the site reported on the rise of attacks in Internet of Things (IoT) botnets, which are private networks infected with and taken over by malware.

IoT botnets — like the Mirai botnet which was responsible for the October 2016 attack on DNS provider Dyn and the Liberia Internet take down, existed 20 years ago. They were however, composed of Linux home routers instead of much more common smart devices like today’s WiFi-enabled DVRs and closed-circuit cameras.

Where once sophisticated DDoS attacks required sophisticated skills, these attacks can now be done by or at the behest of people with low to no hacking ability. There are more players in the game now with better tools at their disposal,” wrote Sara Peters, senior editor at Dark Reading.

The experts Peters spoke with — and she access to many Dark Reading contributors — say the critical element is deploying best practices in making DNS architecture and organizations’ network infrastructure resilient to the ever-more-common hacking of smart devices.

How Can a City Prepare?

First, watch the Radio Free Europe clip below to understand the potential for DDoS attacks.

Second, learn the three critical security controls local governments must make themselves aware of in the face of elevated DDoS attacks from our guest columnist.

Finally, read about the 7 worst DDoS attacks in the first three quarters of 2016 to ignite your imagination. It may lead you to discover where your city’s DDoS risks lay.

Connecting Rural Areas to Remote Work

Flexjobs CEO shares how rural areas can take advantage of remote work opportunities growth when local governments nurture broadband, training and awareness.

Metro areas have more or less fully recovered from the effects of the recession, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, with employment exceeding its pre-recession peak by 4.8 percent in 2016. By contrast, employment in rural areas is still below pre-recession levels — meaning those areas haven’t seen the same recovery.

Why is there a disconnect between rural and urban areas when it comes to employment after the recession?

It’s a highly-complex issue with multiple factors. But one aspect is location. Employers tend to hire people who live close to their offices, which are often located in or around metro areas. The rise of remote work is changing the situation.

Rural Workers Face Longer Commutes

In August 2017, FlexJobs surveyed more than 800 people who identified themselves as “living in a rural area” and found that 16 percent of rural professionals say they currently have “long or super commutes,” which are typically defined as 90 minutes or more each way to and from work.

Comparatively, only 2.6 percent of the entire U.S. workforce are super commuters. A rural resident is six times more likely than the average U.S. worker to commute extreme distances to work.

Consider that only 21 percent of rural residents said their longest daily commute was less than one hour — which is the average for the U.S. workforce (26 minutes each way). People living in rural communities are far more likely to have longer-than-average commutes, traveling extreme distances to work every day.

But there is an important and growing trend that can help increase work.

Remote Work Presents Game Changer

With the rise of remote work — 115 percent over the last 10 years — there are more types of opportunities open to workers in rural areas, as well as any economically disadvantaged areas, to find work that isn’t tied to one specific location.

Trae Miller is the executive director of the Logan County Economic Development Corporation (LCEDC), a nonprofit organization focused on expanding the county’s economic base.

“Our typical profile of a potential telecommuter includes parents; town and country, rural citizens, [the] disabled, retirees, college students and those needing flexible work options,” said Miller, “including under-employed individuals and spouses of transferees like physicians that have professional skills but no local job opportunities.”

The work of the LCEDC is supporting existing and new businesses and developing infrastructure like high-speed Internet access. Miller says rural remote jobs are a “viable workforce strategy” for the goal of creating more jobs for Logan County’s 23,000 rural residents.

When employers adopt remote work policies that enable hiring outside of their immediate geographic areas, residents, companies and communities all benefit.

Why Living Rural, Working Remote Works

Michael Cornett is the director of Teleworks USA, part of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program, a workforce development agency serving 23 counties with the mission to prepare, advance and expand the workforce in eastern Kentucky.

Cornett said remote work helps to alleviate the “unique set of geographic and economic challenges” faced by eastern Kentucky. Over 1,000 eastern Kentucky residents have found remote work through Teleworks USA, rather than having to relocate out of the region to find viable work opportunities.

Our clients appreciate that they can work from home while saving funds that would otherwise be used for gas, work attire, dining out and other expenses associated with brick-and-mortar jobs, said Cornett.

Miller noted a variety of remote work options allows people to come home if they’ve had to move away to find work. It helps people who no longer want to, or can’t afford to live in urban areas, find a better quality of life while maintaining their careers.

The traditional urban work model of ‘living in cities because that is where the jobs are’ no longer applies when a worker transitions to the work at home model,” said Miller. “For some, having an opportunity to either find lower cost housing, or cash out the equity that has built up in their Denver or Front Range home and move to a quieter rural community can be very appealing.”

Rural job seekers have shared their stories about remote work on Flexjobs:

Broadband Needed to Support Remote Work Opportunities

Areas once prone to economic boom and bust due to heavy reliance on one or two industries, such as agriculture or natural resources, are seeing more stable economies, thanks to remote work, said Ginger Chinn, the managing director of Urban and Rural Business Services for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The office’s “25K Jobs Initiative” is focusing on rural Utah over the next four years, and “remote work is a critical component,” Chinn said. A key reason for this is Utah’s excellent broadband Internet access. Utah has had the fastest Internet speeds in the western United States, according to Akamai Technologies’ regular State of the Internet report.

“Telecommuting opens possibilities to diversify economies and creates valuable opportunities for residents to achieve incomes and careers they might not have otherwise. In addition, these communities retain those residents and grow,” said Chinn.

Kentucky’s Teleworks USA is seeing significant success. The group has helped connect more than 1,100 eastern Kentuckians with remote jobs, “with a 71 percent retention rate since January 2015,” said Cornett.

Remote work is contributing to economic growth, according to Cornett. “These numbers represent an estimated $25 million in annual wages being brought into the region strictly via remote-work job opportunities.”

The Benefits of Employing Remote Workers

Employers also see benefits from hiring remote workers, including recruiting from larger pools of job seekers and saving on building and other expenses associated with physical office spaces, said Cornett.

“It’s a perfect situation for both the companies and the teleworkers,” he said.

The 2017 State of Telecommuting Report found a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per year for every half-time telecommuting employee, and $22,000 per year for full-time telecommuters. It’s “largely the result of increased productivity, and reduced real estate, absenteeism and turnover costs,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, which analyzed the report data.

Rural Broadband a Major Obstacle for Remote Work Opportunities

One of the major obstacles to implementing remote work in rural locations is that working remotely is heavily reliant on secure and reliable high-speed Internet access. Thirty-nine percent of Americans in rural areas do not have access to broadband service, compared with only 4 percent of people in urban areas.

Organizations like the Rural Broadband Association and Kentucky SOAR are working to bring broadband service to rural areas across the United States.

“Remote work opportunities are a big piece to a very large and complex puzzle of transformation in our region,” said Jared Arnett, executive director of Kentucky SOAR, an organization working across 24 counties to reshape Appalachia and partner of Teleworks USA.

Kentucky SOAR seeks to increase the availability of affordable, high-speed broadband and increase adoption rates as well as advance the regional workforce to be competitive in the digital economy and emerging industries.

Establishing Training Programs for Rural Workers

Training residents for remote work opportunities is another part of connecting rural workers to remote work.

An innovative training example comes from U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna, whose district includes California’s Silicon Valley, which has employers like Apple, Google and Facebook. Khanna is promoting a public-private partnership called TechHire Eastern Kentucky, which offers paid training for people to learn to code and finds paid internships with tech companies in Silicon Valley that will lead to remote employment for eastern Kentucky’s “coal country” residents.

And Kentucky SOAR and Teleworks USA are partnering with three community and technical colleges in eastern Kentucky on a program called Digital Careers Now. Arnett said the program provides “rapid, real-time, industry-led training” in remote job fields like information technology and healthcare.

“By creating these hubs, we are providing a practical mechanism” to provide specific training that leads to employment, said Arnett.

States Encouraging Remote Work

In addition to Colorado, Kentucky and Utah, there are more examples of campaigns designed to encourage remote work in rural areas:

  • Maine: The Maine Center for Business and Economic Research and the University of Southern Maine are studying the state’s growing telecommuting workforce. One goal is to entice people to live in Maine and bring their jobs with them, working remotely.
  • Montana: A group in Montana has created a “Bring Our Families Back” campaign to encourage alumni of two major universities in the state, living elsewhere, to return to Montana and work remotely in their current jobs.
  • Vermont and New Hampshire:These are the first two states in the U.S. to enact laws protecting residents’ “right to request” flexible work arrangements. Residents who wish to work remotely can request that option from their employers without fear of retaliation. In Vermont, in particular, “employers must grant the request unless it is ‘inconsistent with its business operations or its legal or contractual obligations.’”
Get the Word Out: Remote Work Bolsters Small Towns

The decline of small-town America has long been lamented. While the decline is complicated, remote work to a tool that can bring back the economies of small towns, as well as economically disadvantaged areas.

But connecting rural areas to remote work is challenged by low awareness. Many people don’t realize the array of remote work opportunities because 10 years ago was far less remote work and in fewer career areas. But this has changed dramatically.

Miller said a wide variety of remote work is being done by rural Colorado residents.

“We’ve seen remote work opportunities as reported by our job seekers to include counseling and teaching positions, customer service, sales, voiceover, accounting and administrative jobs,” said Miller.

Other remote work is being done by health professionals; business consultants; administrative and billing workers; marketing, Web and graphic design professionals; videographers and chemical engineers.

To help with this, there are partnerships that can be created at the local level, such as the partnership FlexJobs recently launched with the non-profit Logan County Economic Development Corp. in Colorado. The partnership’s goal is to expand awareness of remote career opportunities for Logan County residents.

About the Author

Sara Sutton Fell is CEO and founder of FlexJobs, a career website for telecommuting, flexible, freelance and part-time job listings, founder of Remote.co, a one-stop resource for remote teams and companies and founder of 1 Million for Work Flexibility. She was named as a Young Global Leader in 2014 by the World Economic Forum. Sutton Fell is a graduate of UC Berkeley and currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Should Cities Subsidize Stadiums with Bonds?

Stadiums are elements of economic development, but one researcher found that using public funds to construct them does not pay public dividends.

Recently MunicipalBonds.com reviewed the common practice of financing sporting facilities construction with tax-exempt municipal debt in order to advise muni bond investors. The researcher found that contrary to popular opinion, subsidizing stadiums offers little contribution to local economies and spends public dollars on projects that reap the largest wins for private entities:

The sole winners from these constructions are various sporting team owners and the construction firms that will reap the benefits from these huge construction contracts,” according to Jayden Sangha, who manages the Stockton, Calif., municipal bond portfolio.

Federal Losses from Subsidizing Stadiums

Sangha found that since 2010, $2.7 billion in municipal debt has been issued for professional sports stadiums.

He pointed out that the federal government has lost a substantial amount of tax revenue because the debts issued to construct the facilities are tax exempt, and Congress rejected several proposals during the Obama administration. There is a chart of the lost federal tax revenues by specific stadium projects in the article, including the newly constructed Detroit Little Caesars Arena, financed in part through a $250 million muni bond issued in 2014, which cost the federal government $71 million in revenue.

Justifications for Subsidizing Stadiums Don’t Hold Water

Proponents say that by subsidizing a stadium, the local government will:

  • Expand the local economy
  • Generate revenue
  • Increase consumer spending
  • Create jobs

But Sangha claimed these assumptions are easy to refute when factoring in lost opportunities for public funds and the net impact on the full local economy.

Public funds earmarked for a stadium cannot be spent on key functions of municipal government, like education and infrastructure upgrades, or long-term asset management plans.

Further, a subsidized stadium doesn’t increase what people spend on entertainment, it just reallocates where they spend. Thus, new stadiums and surrounding new businesses take business from existing local revenue streams — a risk that is not always evaluated in plans to build stadiums with a city’s public funds.

Historically, the cities that have built these sporting facilities show that sporting event revenues typically constitute a small share of a city’s economic output and these events do not employ a substantial number of people,” wrote Sangha.

He concluded by advising municipal debt investors to carefully analyze the revenue streams backing a debt to subsidize a stadium, and the potential worst-case scenarios.

Read the original article and access a chart on recent bond-issued stadiums on MunicipalBonds.com.

Some of the sentiments discussed are echoed in a recent Detroit News story about the Little Caesar’s Arena, pictured above, set to open September 12th with a Kid Rock performance.

State Policy Enables Seattle City Light to Grow Renewables

State policies are growing clean tech economies, such as Washington state’s Clean Energy Fund and a financing program through Seattle City Light.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency forecast is that global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to grow to 16 percent by 2040 from 2015 levels. But, cities and states are committed to stay on track with climate change goals, however. A recent report of the U.S. Climate Alliance, which represents 14 U.S. States and Puerto Rico, said its members are on track to hit a 24 to 29 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2025. That figure is on par with expectations of the U.S. set in the Paris Climate Agreement.

According to Inside Climate News, between 2005 to 2015 the alliance states had cut greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent while economic output grew 14 percent, which emissions reduction enthusiasts cite as a victory in the war where leaders argue climate change targets will negatively effect the U.S. economy.

We have exploded the myth that you can’t defeat climate change and grow your economy at the same time,” said Washington Govornor Jay Inslee, citing the states’ development of clean energy technologies.

According to the Alliance, on a per capita basis, its states expanded twice as fast as the rest of the country. The report cites best practices of each state.

Washington policy, for example, focuses on financial tools as well as power sector and transportation strategies that achieve a clean energy economy and reduce emissions. The Washington State Clean Energy Fund, established by Inslee in 2013, has invested $80 million and leveraged an additional $200 million in federal and private funds for:

  • Energy Revolving Loan Fund Grants
  • Smart Grid Grants to Utilities
  • Research, Development and Demonstration Matching Funds
  • Credit Enhancement for Renewable Energy Manufacturing Funds, backed by the
    Washington Economic Development Finance Authority

One revolving loan grant helped foster meter-based financing for Seattle City Light.

Financing Through Seattle City Light Grows Renewables, Reduces Power Emissions

Also known as on-bill financing, its an alternative to traditional ways of paying for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects by reducing or eliminating the up-front investment and allowing for repayment from the reduction in energy cost savings.

Nonprofit lenders developed and implemented on-bill repayment mechanisms, and Seattle City Light customers repay energy efficiency projects as part of their electric bill. Customers can use the program for non-electric equipment.

Since inception the program has completed 574 loans for a total $6.7 million using the on-bill repayment mechanism.

Webinar & Guide: How to Clean Up Flooded Homes

Can homes flooded in hurricane disasters be saved? This webinar and guide teaches homeowners and public housing agencies how to clean up flooded homes safely.

In a recent webinar on how to clean up flooded homes that 300 people, mostly from regions affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, attended, Jonathan Wilson of National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) provided the good news:

Yes, you can save those houses,” he told Florida and Texas homeowners, housing and community development agency representatives, municipal employees and builders and designers focused on recovering flood damaged housing.

Wilson supported recovery efforts in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and said he was brought in to answer the question, could homes flooded above six feet with mold up to the ceiling be saved and made healthy and livable again? In partnership with Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise), NCHH created the illustrated step-by-step Field Guide for Clean-Up of Flooded Homes for do-it-yourselfers and contractors to prevent mold-related health problems and save storm-damaged homes.

Why ‘How to Clean up Flooded Homes’ Resources are Needed

Enterprise, the Florida Housing Coalition, NCHH, and NeighborWorks America brought in Armand Magnelli from Livable Housing, Inc., to deliver the two-hour “How to Restore Your Flooded Home: Addressing Mold & other Health-Related Hazards” to share best practices and post-flood mold remediation techniques to make damaged homes safe and habitable. The webinar highlighted the dangers of mold, the six main points of exposure from inspection to moving back in and the stages, including best practices, products and tools needed to safely complete remediation work.

Because current rebuilding estimates make Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma “unofficially the third and fourth costliest hurricanes in U.S. history,” according to Enterprise,  hundreds of thousands of residents are “displaced, without power and at risk of serious health issues if damp conditions and mold are left untreated.”

Many residents need to know how to clean up flooded homes because the clock is ticking.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Transitional Sheltering Assistance program was recently extended for Hurricane Harvey survivors. And in Florida, where FEMA has approved hundreds of millions in assistance to numerous counties, local official cautioned weeks ago that home inspections related to federal aid often accomplished in a week to 10 days might now take up to a month, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Funding may not be available, or may not reach disaster displaced people in time, and the urgency to rehouse is great. Magnelli opened the webinar with a poll, and about half of attending respondents indicated they were doing the mold remediation work themselves. Magnelli couldn’t stress enough how dangerous mold is before he walked through the safety issues and key steps in cleaning it up.

Living in a building during reconstruction is of special concern, he said.

Mold can cause serious health problems for young children, seniors and anyone with respiratory illnesses and weak immune systems.  According to Laurie Schoeman, the program director for Enterprise’s National Resilience Initiative, the “aha moment” came when attendees learned about measuring the air quality of an impacted home, that the level of mold spores can go up and down in the phases after flooding disaster.

Who Should Watch the Webinar and Use the Guide

The webinar and guide in how to clean up flooded homes is designed for:

  • Community-based organizations
  • Contractors
  • Housing owners
  • Technical assistance providers
  • Code enforcement officials
  • Volunteer housing managers
  • Finance partners involved in clean-up and risk mitigation

The field guide was developed out of hurricane recovery response and draws from the recovery and rebuilding experience after Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Irene and Rita.

Cleaning up after a flood or extreme weather event is a labor-intensive and hazardous process, according to the webinar notes. While the basic concepts of the field guide will not change, said Schoeman, Enterprise and NHCC are currently working on updates on equipment requirements and mold data and will add more robust information to the remediation process section.

Why Housing Agencies are on the Frontlines of Disasters

In particular, housing agencies face numerous challenges during recovery efforts after an event like Hurricane Harvey, Schoeman told EfficientGov.

For starters, there are the tight budgets that have gotten even tighter. In July, the approved 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Senate Appropriations bill cut $88 million from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Program, according to Vermontbiz, affecting public housing agency budgets.

They are really strapped,” said Schoeman.

Enterprise regularly engages with public housing agencies and partnering organizations on resilience and emergency response issues to help them mitigate exposures by shaving costs and improving efficiency, she said. The goal is to address communities in recovery and complacency in at-risk communities. Continuity of operations is an integral part of operations and maintenance routines, and creating emergency preparedness programs improves community resilience.

“When a climate event hits, it’s catastrophic.”

Second, a lot of agencies didn’t have emergency plans for certain housing, Schoeman added, citing the example of the seniors sitting up to their waists in water at the La Vita Bella Nursing Home in Dickinson, Texas, which went viral on social media and alerted local rescuers of the dire situation.

Enterprise provides community development corporations (CDCs) with funding and technical support. It’s the CDCs, housing agencies and partners that bring the recovery support to the facilities, buildings and residents who need it, said Schoeman.

We really feel like these housing organizations are fire houses of sorts,” she said.

Schoeman shared the webinar and webinar notes, below.

Webinar Quick Tips
  • Inactive mold is a hazard, particularly with asthma development and respiratory infections and allergic rhinitis, but cleaning is standard with borate-type treatment products and half-face, negative air respirators with a HEPA filter.
  • If sewage, which is hazardous, is or was present in stormwater, clean-up will also require bleach, and in standing water, waders.
  • Unexpected animal residues, like pigeon nests, are incredibly toxic.
  • Open cuts raise exposure to all contaminants present in flood and storm damaged buildings.
  • Know that moisture is the ultimate enemy: “We have to get the buildings dry before we close them in or apply finishes,” within 24-28 hours., Magnelli stressed.
  • The basic steps of how to clean up flooded homes are: protection protocols, thorough cleaning, scrubbing down, drying the building out, treating with borate to reduce mold growth potential, more thorough drying and increasing sustainability in reconstruction where possible.
  • Fogging or spraying throughout a flood damaged building is not recommended.
  • Inspectors should have no connection to those doing the remediation work, which may be mandated by law in some places, such as the state of Louisiana.
Webinar Notes: Here’s Five Things to Know About How to Clean Up Flooded Homes

Ensure you’re taking all precautions necessary and addressing every issue in the cleanup process.

#1 There are major health risks. These are the top causes of health problems you’ll need to keep in mind when you’re working in flooded homes:

  • Structural problems – this includes shifted foundations and rotted floorboards. DO NOT enter the building if the foundation has been pushed, and test for the latter by hitting floorboards with the end of a two-by-four.
  • Mold – too small to be seen with the naked eye, mold spores floating in the air cause issues for allergy-sufferers: anything from a stuffy nose to a life-threatening asthma attack.
  • Lead dust – caused by lead paint drying and flaking, symptoms are typically nonexistent.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) – do not use fuel-burning equipment, including portable generators, inside flood-damaged homes; CO poisoning can cause sudden illness and death.
  • Cuts and punctures – broken glass and boards and exposed nails are additional hazards present in contaminated floodwaters.
  • Electric shock – turn off the electricity at the breaker before starting work; any electrical device that has been flooded is a danger.

#2 It’s important to create an agreement with any mold remediation professional. Per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Centers for Disease Control, hire a professional if mold covers an area of 100 square feet or a 10-by-10-foot space. Then, make sure you have an agreement that you will hold the payment until the work passes an inspection. The inspection should show there is no visible mold, no mold odors and that air tested after the work was done has a safe level of indoor air quality.

#3 Passing inspection is two-tiered. First, there’s the Basic Safety Inspection where you check for structural damage, have your electrical and natural gas system inspected, etc. Next, there’s the Flood/Storm Damage Inspection where you check for mold and water damage, take inventory of what can be salvaged, etc.

#4 Protective equipment is a must. Some steps in the cleanup process require head-to-toe protection – lungs, eyes, ears, feet, head and hands – everything from goggles to work boots with steel shank, toe and insole. The minimum you’ll find for any level is a cap, safety glasses and an N95 or N100 respirator.

#5 There are eight stages in the cleanup process:

  • Pre-work Inspection: Open the doors and windows for 30 minutes before you start working in the home to reduce odor levels and allow for dilution of airborne contaminants. In this step, you’ll also need to complete a Basic Safety Inspection and a Flood/Storm Damage Inspection.
  • Before work begins: In this stage you purchase or rent your tools and supplies, plan for trash removal, make sure you have a working bathroom, etc.
  • Site preparation: This is when you set up a safety and cleanup area, put on your personal protection equipment, lay a plywood path, and so on.
  • Clean-out: Here you’ll complete tasks such as removing furniture and appliances, remove wall-to-wall carpet and clean out closets and kitchen cabinets.
  • Gut tear-out procedure: As the name implies, this is where you get into the more heavy-duty portion of the process – tearing down drywall or plaster ceilings and walls, removing layers from the floor, tearing out cabinets, and so on.
  • Pre-construction cleaning and treatment: In this stage you’ll be preparing the space for construction – dry brushing and vacuuming all surfaces, disinfecting all hard surfaces, drying out the building, etc.
  • Selective tear out and preparation before restoration: There are a few more tasks to complete before restoration begins, such as ventilating the attic, opening the crawl space, and disposing of insulation.
  • Restore possessions: Finally, you’ll need to take care of what you salvaged by sponging off wood furnishings, disposing of or thoroughly washing clothing and textiles, and damp-wiping china, glass, jewelry, porcelain and metal possessions.

Enterprise Community Partners, headquartered in Columbia, Md., and its partners are working to develop a similar webcast to be delivered in Spanish for Puerto Rico attendees following the Hurricane Irma disaster. Through offices in 11 metropolitan areas, Enterprise partners with affordable multifamily property owners, government agencies and community development corporations to support resilience at the building, neighborhood, city and state levels, offering a range of products, services and grants. For example, Enterprise  is an intermediary under the Section 4 Capacity Building for Affordable Housing and Community Development program, funded by the HUD and is currently administering rolling hurricane recovery grants.