EPA’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grant Program: Planning Grant Guidance
EPA recently released full guidance for states to apply for Phase I planning grants, which represent the first tranche of money available through the Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) program. This blog post pulls out the most important information that states need to know ahead of the March 31st deadline to inform EPA of their Notice of Intent to Participate (NOIP). The post is meant to provide basic information on the program and the application process—it is NOT meant to substitute for the full guidance provided by EPA. States should read the full guidance, linked above, as soon as possible.
The CPRG program, administered by EPA, is a $5 billion program designed to help states, municipalities, Tribes, and territories create climate action plans to reduce pollution from carbon dioxide and other air pollutants in the near and long term. The program’s funding is split into two phases—Phase I noncompetitive planning grants ($250 million) and Phase II implementation grants ($4.6 billion). As of March 1, states can apply for Phase I planning grant funding. Phase II implementation grant funds will only be available to communities that are partners in, included in, or covered by Preliminary Climate Action Plans produced under Phase I planning grants.
Phase I Planning Grant Details
For Phase I Planning Grants, CPRG sets aside $3 million for each state, including DC and PR ($156 million overall). In addition, $1 million is set aside for each of the 67 largest metropolitan areas in the US according to 2020 census data ($67 million overall), and $25 million for Tribes. The remaining $2 million is reserved for territories.
States that opt in to receive a Phase I planning grant will ultimately need to produce three deliverables:
- Preliminary Climate Action Plan (PCAP) – Due March 1, 2024. PCAPs will include a focused list of near-term, high priority implementation-ready measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. States are required to coordinate with municipalities and air pollution control agencies and are advised to coordinate with Tribes in drafting PCAPs. PCAPs are essential for states and municipalities to compete for Phase II implementation grants. For more information on PCAPs, see page 18 of EPA’s full guidance.
- Comprehensive Climate Action Plan (CCAP) – Due Summer 2025. CCAPs are meant to build on PCAPs and address all major sources and sinks of GHGs, and they are meant to establish both near- and long-term GHG emission reduction goals, strategies, and measures.
- Status Report – Due at the end of the four-year planning grant period (mid-2027). The status report is only required for states, municipalities, and air pollution control agencies, and it’s meant to provide an overview of the progress recipients have made on achieving the goals laid out in their PCAP and CCAP and any updates that they have made to these plans.
States should note that CPRG grants are meant to be extremely flexible. A full list of eligible uses for Phase I planning grant funds is available on pages 23-24 of EPA’s full guidance.
Phase I planning grants are noncompetitive, and every state is eligible to receive up to $3 million in funding from EPA. To begin the application process, states must submit a Notice of Intent to Participate (NOIP) to EPA via email at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than March 31, 2023. NOIPs must include an attached letter or memo signed by an official within the governor’s office or the director of the lead agency designated to apply for the Phase I planning grant.
Full applications for states are due to EPA by April 28, 2023. Full applications must include a budget detail and a narrative workplan for executing the planning grant. The workplan should describe the applicant’s approach to developing each of the three deliverables listed above, as well as how the applicant plans to coordinate work with other state government agencies, municipalities, Tribes, and other stakeholders, including low-income and disadvantaged communities, to complete those deliverables. For each deliverable, the workplan should include the applicant’s approach to developing each element of the deliverable, the agencies/entities responsible for completing each element, and a schedule with milestones for developing each deliverable. EPA’s complete list of workplan requirements is on pages 17-27.
A full list of application materials, including all forms, is on page 16 of EPA’s full guidance.
- States should communicate with municipalities and Tribes inside of or adjacent to their borders who are also applying for a planning grant for two reasons. The first is to ensure that certain planning activities are not duplicated and grant money is spent efficiently. The second reason is to ensure that as many communities in the state are covered by planning grants as possible. Only bodies that are participating in or covered by a planning grant are eligible to receive Phase II implementation grant money from EPA, so it is important that states, municipalities, and Tribes work together to include communities of all sizes.
- Although CPRG funds cannot be used as matching funds for other federal grants, EPA encourages “leveraging” CPRG funds in order to take advantage of other IRA, IIJA, and CHIPS funding. CPRG is a great opportunity to build state capacity for climate planning and action. Many states have mentioned that taking advantage of the spurt of recent federal funding opportunities has been difficult—CPRG money can help alleviate staff, capacity, and engagement needs for states currently working to incorporate other federal programs into future planning.
- Ensure that your budget takes advantage of all $3 million available in the planning grant. Technically, states applying for CPRG Phase I planning grants are eligible for up to $3 million, depending on the budget included in your application. If a state submits a budget less than $3 million, it will not receive the entire $3 million.
- Make contact with your regional EPA office, as these offices will be doing much of the CPRG coordination with states and municipalities.
- Public and stakeholder engagement is required as part of the Preliminary Climate Action Plan (PCAP). States should begin engaging with stakeholders, especially low-income and disadvantaged communities, as early as possible.
Essential Next Steps for States between now and March 31st
- Download and read through full EPA CPRG guidance.
- Identify which agency will submit the NOIP and lead the application process. Ensure that this agency, or your governor, submits the NOIP before March 31st, 2023.
- If you haven’t already, sign up for EPA’s CPRG email updates. EPA will release additional materials and technical assistance tools to help with applications over the next few weeks.
- Identify other agencies in your state involved in climate action planning to coordinate your application and ensure broad coverage across state government.
- Ensure that registration, accounts, and information on SAM.gov and Grants.gov are complete and up to date.
- Reach out to and coordinate with municipalities and Tribes to determine other applicants from your state. As mentioned previously, your state plan should seek to cover municipalities and Tribes that do not apply for their own CPRG planning grants, so that they can be eligible to apply for Phase II implementation grants when they become available.