The Barbed Wire - January 14, 2022

January 14, 2022
RCRC 2022 Officers Sworn In, Reception Honoring Rural Leadership Award Recipients Postponed
Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 1644 (Burke) – Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund: California Jobs Plan Act of 2021
Rural Rundown of Governor Newsom’s 2022-23 Proposed Budget
RCRC 2021 Rural Recap Now Available Online!
State Water Board to Consider Proposed Funding to Cover Debt for Non-Payment Due to COVID-19
RCRC Hosts Webinar on Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF)
RCRC Submits Comments to CPUC on Joint IOU Microgrid Incentive Program Implementation Plan
WRDA 2022 Update
U.S. Treasury Releases Final Rule for American Rescue Plan
Secretary Buttigieg Visits California Ports
U.S. Agriculture Committee Hearing on EV Investments and Rural America
USDA to double “Cover Crops” by 2030
SPECIAL FEATURE! RCRC Digital Governance Series: Rural Broadband and 4 Ways Counties Can Move Forward Now
BULLETIN BOARD
IN THE NEWS
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

RCRC 2022 Officers Sworn In, Reception Honoring Rural Leadership Award Recipients Postponed

On Wednesday, January 12th, the 2022 RCRC Officers were sworn into office to lead the organization in championing policies on behalf of California’s rural counties. Nevada County Supervisor Dan Miller was installed as Chair with Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter installed as First Vice Chair and Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez installed as Second Vice Chair. Mono County Supervisor Stacy Corless remains an Officer in the role of Immediate Past Chair. 

The Oath of Office was administered virtually, during the RCRC Board of Directors, by California State Senator Brian Dahle. Senator Dahle is a former RCRC Board Chair and was elected to the State Senate in 2019 to represent the 1st District, which encompasses 11 Northern California counties—nearly all of which are active members of RCRC.  

Read the full press release here

RCRC traditionally holds a reception to kick of the new year celebrating the installation of the new RCRC Officers and honoring the recipients of the Rural Leadership Awards. In light of the health order issued by the Sacramento County Health Officer on January 6, RCRC has postponed the Annual Installation and Awards Reception to a later date.  

The Rural Leadership Awards are presented annually to two public officials who have demonstrated an understanding of, and leadership in, rural issues and unique challenges that rural communities face. This year, RCRC looks forward to honoring the 2021 Rural Leadership Award recipients, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry and Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), for their leadership on broadband access and reliability issues in the legislature and CPUC, respectively.

Bill of the Week: Assembly Bill 1644 (Burke) – Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund: California Jobs Plan Act of 2021

RCRC supports Assembly Bill 1644, authored by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood). This measure amends provisions of the California Jobs Plan Act of 2021 (Act) to exempt forest health and resilience projects funded through the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) from certain employment standards. 

The Act currently requires the California Air Resources Board to update GGRF funding guidelines to require specific projects funded by the continuously appropriated portion of the GGRF to meet certain employment standards, including requiring prevailing wage and proof of a community workforce agreement for construction projects as specified under the Act. The Act leaves the interpretation of “construction” ambiguous and open to including public works projects such as tree removal for community forest health and wildfire prevention efforts. RCRC worked with the author’s staff to amend forest and fire prevention projects out of the bill, but changes to GGRF continuous appropriations in the 2021-22 State Budget Package nullified those efforts and left the possibility that those projects would be impacted by the Act.  

AB 1644 represents a commitment by Assemblymember Burke to resolve RCRC’s concerns with the Act so that local government-led forest health and wildfire prevention projects funded through the GGRF won’t be slowed by the provisions of the Act. AB 1644 was introduced on January 12, 2022 and awaits referral by the Assembly Rules Committee. RCRC’s letter of support is available here. For more information, contact Staci Heaton, RCRC Senior Policy Advocate by email or call (916) 447-4806.

Rural Rundown of Governor Newsom’s 2022-23 Proposed Budget

On Monday, Governor Newson released his Administration’s 2022-23 Proposed Budget. This proposal is the first step in the State’s budget negotiations with lawmakers, who must pass a budget by June 15th for the July 1st start of the 2022-23 fiscal year. 

The Governor’s proposed budget highlighted new investments in the following five program areas: 

  • COVID Response;
  • Climate Resiliency; 
  • Addressing Homelessness; 
  • Cost of Living; and 
  • Public Safety Investment. 

The Rural Rundown captures highlights of the proposal as it relates to RCRC member counties and can be accessed here

RCRC 2021 Rural Recap Now Available Online!

RCRC’s 2021 Rural Recap (formerly known as the Annual Report) is now available online! The Rural Recap is prepared for the RCRC Board of Directors to highlight significant actions taken on issues impacting California’s rural counties, and to outline key advocacy efforts RCRC staff engaged in on behalf of California's rural communities. Read the 2021 Rural Recap here.

State Water Board to Consider Proposed Funding to Cover Debt for Non-Payment Due to COVID-19

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) proposes to have funding available to wastewater utilities to cover debt due to customer non-payment on sewer bills during the COVID pandemic. A public draft of the proposed Wastewater Arrearage Program Guidelines (Guidelines) has been released. If adopted, the Guidelines would establish the process and criteria the State Water Board will use when administering the Program. The State Water Board will consider adoption of the proposed Guidelines during next week’s Board meeting on Wednesday, January 19, 2022.  

Eligible entities that can apply for wastewater arrearages funding include wastewater treatment providers as well as wastewater billing entities (entities such as counties or cities that bill customers for sewer services provided by a wastewater treatment facility). Please contact RCRC Policy Advocate, Sidd Nag, by email or at (916) 447-4806 if you have questions or would like additional information.  

RCRC Hosts Webinar on Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF)

On Thursday, RCRC hosted an informational webinar on the Community Economic Resilience Fund featuring Labor and Workforce Development Agency Undersecretary, Stewart Knox, and Mary Collins, from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. The Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF) was a late addition to the most recent state budget cycle (SB 162).  

  • The program is funded with $600 million that will be used to plan and implement projects that promote a sustainable and equitable recovery from the economic distress of COVID-19,support communities and regional groups in producing regional roadmaps for economic recovery; and, 

  • align and leverage state, federal, philanthropic, and private investments that maximize recovery efforts. 

 

The dollars will be distribute in two phases: 

  1. Regional Planning Grants – ($5 million each to 13 regional collaboratives)

  2. Regional Implementation Grants – ($500+ million to fund project implementation) 

The recorded webinar is available to watch here and the slide deck is available here

RCRC Submits Comments to CPUC on Joint IOU Microgrid Incentive Program Implementation Plan

On Friday, RCRC submitted comments to the CPUC on a draft implementation plan PG&E, SCE (Southern California Edison), and SDG&E (San Diego Gas & Electric) submitted as part of their microgrid incentive program (MIP). 

Previously, the CPUC allocated $200 million in ratepayer funding for the large three IOUs to develop a MIP, which will provide up to $15 million in funding per microgrid project.  These microgrids are intended to increase local energy resiliency and promote overall grid reliability. 

Under the draft Implementation Plan, utilities will award grants to build microgrids in areas:  with high fire risk; that have experienced multiple PSPS events; in an earthquake zone; or with lower electrical reliability.  Projects, including critical facilities, must benefit low-income census tracts, federally recognized tribal communities, CalEnviroScreen Communities, or “rural areas.”  

RCRC’s made many suggestions to ensure effective use of scarce ratepayer resources, including ensuring that microgrid projects be deployed in those areas at greatest risk of electrical disruption.  Those suggestions include: 

  • Aligning definitions for low-income communities with other statutory programs (80% median income); 

  • Ensuring that the definition of “rural area” doesn’t exclude large rural swaths of RCRC member counties; 

  • Making projects that serve non-federally recognized tribal communities eligible for funding; 

  • Ensuring that PSPS-specific utility mitigation projects do not prejudice local microgrid proposals that provide multi-incident resiliency; and, 

  • Decreasing the number of points awarded for ancillary environmental benefits relative to those awarded based on community risk. 

RCRC also stressed that several new utility microgrids – including those in El Dorado, Butte, and Tuolumne Counties - need to be modified so they can provide local electrical resiliency during unplanned outages and severe weather events. 

For more information, contact John Kennedy, RCRC Policy Advocate.

WRDA 2022 Update

On Wednesday, the U.S. Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment held a hearing about the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022 to discuss the various impacts of the previous WRDA (2020) and potential policy implementations in WRDA 2022. Policymakers noted the importance of passing this legislation in a timely and bipartisan fashion. Representatives from the U.S. Army Service Corps and the Civil Works programs emphasized the need for more public investment in research and development to support water conservation programs, as well as outreach and education in underserved communities greatly affected by climate change. The panel highlighted possible policy initiatives for WRDA 2022, focusing on dredging, outreach, and strategic implementation.

U.S. Treasury Releases Final Rule for American Rescue Plan

On January 6th, the U.S. Treasury Department released the Final Rule for $65.1 billion in funding to counties as part of the American Rescue Plan’s State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Fund. This new rule broadens and simplifies what municipalities can spend the funds on such as water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure projects, while also expanding support for public-sector hiring. However, the new rules notably add restrictions on using the funds to pay debt service, a request previously made by a handful of states  

Secretary Buttigieg Visits California Ports

On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, visited the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach where he spoke about the funding that California will be able to apply for from the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure law. Buttigieg also used the press conference to highlight the ongoing work being done by the Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to alleviate congestion in California ports.   

U.S. Agriculture Committee Hearing on EV Investments and Rural America

On Wednesday, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee held a hearing titled “Implications of Electric Vehicle Investments for Agriculture and Rural America.” During the hearing, panelists and Committee members warned that Rural America risks being “left behind” in the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). Democrats pushed industry representatives on ways to ensure widespread and equitable EV adoption. Republicans warned that EVs currently don’t meet rural Americans’ needs and that the transition to EVs will be challenged by China’s dominance of the minerals needed to manufacture EVs as well as the current capacity of the U.S. electric grid.  

As part of the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the Biden administration wants to deploy 500,000 chargers across the U.S. by 2030. Industry representatives suggested highways and convenience stores as good places to expand charging networks in rural areas. RCRC’s federal lobbyist partners, American Continental Group, for coverage of this hearing. 

USDA to double “Cover Crops” by 2030

On Monday, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Tom Vilsack, announced a goal of doubling the country's cover crop plantings to 30 million acres by 2030 under various USDA climate smart programs. In particular, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is planning to invest $38 million in 11 states, including California, to encourage the planting of cover crops to help sequester carbon in soil to reduce the climate impact of farming.  

SPECIAL FEATURE! RCRC Digital Governance Series: Rural Broadband and 4 Ways Counties Can Move Forward Now

“Digital Governance” is a limited series, featured in RCRC’s Barbed Wire newsletter, to provide county leadership with essential guidance on information technology topics of key importance to local governments. Each month, Nevada County Chief Information Officer, Steve Monaghan, presents actionable direction on issues such as online service provision, cyber-risk reduction, rural broadband development, and more. In the second installment in this series, entitled “Rural Broadband and 4 Ways Counties Can Move Forward Now”, Monaghan breaks down key concepts of rural broadband and details what actions county leaders should take to prepare for broadband implementation in their communities. Read the article here.

BULLETIN BOARD

Announcements regarding hearings, grants, and public comment notices of importance to California's rural counties.

 

Broadband Funding Resource Guide Now Available for Golden State Connect Authority

An overview of various federal and state funding programs for broadband is now available on the Golden State Connect Authority website under the “Resources” section and will be updated periodically.

 

A Message from the CA Citizens Redistricting Commission: What New Districts Mean 

After receiving reports about confusion over when the new district maps go into effect, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission offers clarification in a special message. View the message here

 

PG&E Safety Net Program – How to File a Claim 

If you are a residential customer who has gone without power for at least 48 hours because of severe storm conditions, you may qualify for an automatic payment under our Safety Net program. This program provides a payment of $25 - $100, which we pay automatically about 60 days following the storm outage.  However, you may submit a claim if you believe that PG&E caused a loss for which you should be compensated. You can make this type of claim using various methods, but online is the fastest way for it to be processed.  

View this message from PG&E for details

 

Technical Assistance Available For General Plan and Housing Element Annual Progress Reports

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) will host an Annual Planning Report (APR) webinar discussing requirements and guidance as well as answer questions to assist local governments in preparing their General Plan and Housing Element Annual Progress Reports due April 1, 2022. During the webinar, OPR and HCD staff will present APR.

Date: January 20, 2022
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Location: Virtual

To register, see here.

 

Webinar - Establishing a County "Ag Pass" or Livestock Pass" Program

On Thursday, January 20th, join this virtual workshop detailing how county officials can establish a county “Ag Pass” or “Livestock Pass” program.

The workshop is sponsored by University of California Cooperative Extension with support from groups that have previously implemented successful Ag/Livestock Pass programs. The workshop will:

  • address details of how to set up a functioning program;
  • discuss common challenges
  • describe considerations for harmonizing existing programs with AB 1103; and
  • provide case studies of successful efforts across California.

For more information, see the workshop flyer here.

Date: Thursday, January 20, 2022
Time: 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Click to Register

 

Career Opportunities

  • NCTC Seeks Deputy Executive Director - Nevada County Transportation Commission (NCTC) is seeking a Deputy Executive Director. Applications must be submitted to nctc@nccn.net by 4:00 p.m. on January 21, 2022. For additional details, see here.
  • UC Cooperative Extension Broadband Seeks Broadband Deployment/Utilization Advisor (2 positions) - UC Cooperative Extension is hiring for two  Broadband Deployment/Utilization Advisor positions. The Broadband Deployment/Utilization Advisor will implement an innovative extension education and applied research program around the intersection of rural broadband access and utilization and associated economic and community development opportunities.

To assure full consideration, application packets must be received by February 18, 2022 – (open until filled)

 

CDFA Accepting Concept Proposals for 2022 Fertilizer Research and Education Program Grant Cycle

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Fertilizer Research and Education Program (FREP) is now accepting concept proposals for the 2022 grant cycle. FREP’s competitive grant program funds research that advances fertilization practices and minimizes environmental impacts of fertilizing materials.

Applicants are invited to submit two-page concept proposals to FREP by Friday, January 28, 2022. Concepts submitted should be aligned with at least one of the identified priority research areas. For details, see the CDFA Grant Program webpage here. For more information, please send email inquiries to FREP@cdfa.ca.gov.

 

California Air Resources Board Webinars on Regulatory Compliance Training

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is offering a variety of training webinars for regulatory compliance on issues affecting public fleets such as Off-Road Regulations, Truck and Bus Rules, and Diesel Truck Rules. 

The New Programs and Regulations course covers the requirements of existing regulations and then CARB's new regulatory programs that will eventually be in effect. The goals for this class are to cover the proposed program elements and elicit participation in the regulatory process.

Date:               February 3, 2022
Time:               1:00 p.m.
Webinar:         Register

Date:               March 31, 2022
Time:               1:00 p.m.
Webinar:         Register

The Compliance Overview: Truck & Bus Rule, Off-Road Regulation, and Portable Equipment course include the following topics:

Truck and Bus Regulation:

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Engine Model Year Schedule
  • Exemptions & Extensions
  • How to Report for Regulation Flexibilities
  • Broker and Dispatcher Requirements
  • DMV Registration

Periodic Smoke Inspection Program (PSIP):

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Program Updates

Advanced Clean Truck (ACT)

  • Manufacturers ZEV Sales Requirements
  • One-Time Reporting
  • Future ZEV Rules

In-Use Off-Road Diesel Vehicle Regulation:

  • Regulation Applicability
  • Requirements Currently in Effect
  • Future Compliance Deadlines

Portable Equipment Registration Program (PERP) & Airborne Toxic Control Measure (ATCM):

  • PERP Eligibility
  • Program Requirements
  • ATCM Program & Updates
  • Enforcement & Inspections

Date:        January 27, 2022
Time:        1:00 p.m.
Webinar:   Register

Date:        March 17, 2022
Time:        1:00 p.m.
Webinar:   Register

 

The In-Use Off-Road Diesel-Fueled Fleets Regulation (Off-Road Regulation) requires fleet owners to report to CARB, label their off-road vehicles, and reduce emissions from older equipment.  This course provides detailed information to help fleet owners understand and comply with the Off-Road Regulation: 

Date:        February 17, 2022
Time:        1:00 p.m.
Webinar:   Register

 

CAL FIRE Accepting Applications for Fire Prevention Grant Programs

CAL FIRE is currently accepting applications for the Fiscal Year 2021-2022 Fire Prevention Grant Program. The program provides funding for fuel reduction, wildfire planning, and public education. For more information, visit the Fire Prevention Grants Program webpage or view the procedural guide, available hereApplications are due by 3:00 p.m. on February 9, 2022. 

 

Caltrans Clean California Grant Program Now Open

The Newsom Administration has announced nearly $300 million in Clean California grants are now available. California cities, counties, transit agencies, tribal governments, and other governmental entities are encouraged to submit proposals of up to $5 million to beautify their communities and address trash and debris. Caltrans will award approximately 200 grants to create hundreds of sustainable, green beautification and litter abatement projects statewide. The department will match local investments and address the needs of more severely underserved communities.The grant application period closes February 1, 2022, and Caltrans will announce the grant recipients on March 1, 2022. Award recipients must complete their project by June 30, 2024. Program guidelines and application documents are available here.

 

CDFA Accepting Applications for Water Efficiency Technical Assistance Program

CDFA’s Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation (OEFI) is accepting applications for a new competitive grant program, the Water Efficiency Technical Assistance program (WETA). 

The Budget Act of 2021 allocated $5 million to support technical assistance for water efficiency and nutrient management for California farmers and ranchers. Resource conservation districts, non-profit organizations, University of California, California State University campuses, California community colleges, and California and federally-recognized tribes are eligible to receive funding to provide technical assistance. Supported activities include one-on-one assistance, on-site pump and irrigation system evaluations, and training in irrigation efficiency and nutrient management.

Applicants must have demonstrated expertise in on-farm irrigation water and energy use efficiency standards as well as on-farm nutrient management. Lead applicants are encouraged to partner with groundwater sustainability agencies, irrigation districts, and/or water quality coalitions to address local concerns and utilize existing outreach networks.

Visit the CDFA OEFI technical assistance website to review the application materials. Applications will be accepted through January 19, 2022 by 5 PM, Pacific Time. Late applications will not be accepted.

 

Access the State Grants Portal for a Multitude of Funding Opportunities

Billions of dollars are up for grabs to public agencies and other entities, including tribes and businesses. Grant seekers can access a centralized portal of grant and loan opportunities here, or sign up to receive new grant opportunities delivered straight to your inbox. 

IN THE NEWS

RCRC press releases and related news clips about RCRC and our member counties. Please note that a subscription may be required to read some external publications.

 

Nevada County Supervisor Dan Miller Installed as Chair of Rural County Representatives of California’ -YubaNet

On Wednesday, Nevada County Supervisor Dan Miller was installed as the Chair of the Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC), a service organization that champions policies on behalf of its 38 member counties.

#CaCantWait Coalition Applauds Critical Public Health Funds in Governor’s Budget…’ -#CACANTWAIT Coalition

California Can’t Wait, a coalition of public health officials, local leaders, frontline workers, and health equity advocates, applauded the Governor’s January budget proposal for including $300 million in added, ongoing state funds to begin rebuilding the state’s battered local public health infrastructure and increase the public health workforce.

Nothing Will Be the Same’: A Prison Town Weighs a Future Without a Prison’-The New York Times

A spotlight on the looming prison closure in the town of Susanville in Lassen County and its effect on the community.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Information related to the current status of legislation impacting California’s rural counties.