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Questa; Only Community in New Mexico Awarded Clean Energy Tech Grant


Environmental Justice and Energy Communities Leverage Tools to Lower Energy Bills, Develop Plans for Sustained Economic Empowerment

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced on March 29, 2022, the 22 inaugural communities selected as part of the Communities Local Energy Action Program (Communities LEAP—not the same LEAP as we know here in Questa, the non-profit run by Claire Coté), a first-of-its-kind initiative designed to help energy-overburdened communities take direct control of their clean energy future.

Questa was the only community in New Mexico that was awarded, alongside other much larger cities, such as Seattle, Pittsburgh, San Jose and more. The 22 communities will receive support from DOE to create community-wide action plans that reduce local air pollution, increase energy resilience, lower utility costs and energy burdens, and provide long-term jobs and economic opportunities.

DOE’s pilot program reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to assist community-led transitions to a clean energy economy, and to build a healthier, more equitable, and sustainable future. “The President is committed to making a historic investment in our clean energy future and environmental justice,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “With Communities LEAP, we will use the power of the Federal government, DOE’s National Labs and other experts to help our communities develop clear, actionable plans to reimagine their energy future and protect the health and safety of all residents.”

By providing targeted technical assistance, Communities LEAP will open the door for communities to access significant, additional DOE and other federal government programs, including those included in the $1.3 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Communities LEAP also implements the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 commitment, which aims to ensure that federal agencies deliver at least 40% of benefits from certain investments to disadvantaged communities and advances the work of the Interagency Working Group on Coal and Power Plant Communities, which focuses on delivering federal investment to hard-hit energy communities.

“Communities across the country must be able to take advantage of these historic investments in clean energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, and clean transportation,” said Mitch Landrieu, White House Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator.

The transition to a clean energy economy lowers local air pollution and energy burdens and is also poised to bring billions of dollars in continued investments to communities across the country while generating good paying jobs. In 2019, renewable energy investments in the US reached $55 billion and clean energy jobs paid 25% more than the national median wage. Workers in clean energy earned a median hourly wage of $23.89 compared to the national median wage of $19.14.

The 22 selected communities will work with DOE and its network of technical assistance providers, government and non-governmental partners, community-based organizations, utilities as well as environmental justice, economic development, and equitable investment organizations to develop roadmaps for clean energy economic development pathways. The inaugural Communities LEAP localities will pursue strategies for planning and investment in:

  • Energy-efficient buildings and beneficial electrification
  • Clean energy development
  • Clean transportation and enhanced mobility
  • Carbon capture and storage
  • Critical minerals recovery
  • Resilient microgrids and energy storage
  • Manufacturing and industry opportunities

“Tribal communities must be included in the urgent fight to combat the climate crisis through innovative strategies that protect health, generate jobs and reduce utility expenses,” said U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“In the years since the closure of the Questa Molybdenum Mine, local leaders in Questa have worked incredibly hard to transform their community into a real model for sustainable economic development and diversification,” said U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM). “In the last decade, the Village of Questa has become a gateway community to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and helped local, clean energy-powered businesses like Taos Bakes grow their manufacturing base. I’m excited to welcome this major investment to help Questa plan for future growth and continue its momentum as a leader in the clean energy economy.”

“I commend the Department of Energy for their decision to provide support to Questa and other communities across the country to create new, good-paying clean energy jobs,” said U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).

“From its deep Hispano roots to the beautiful Sangre de Cristo Mountains in its background, the Village of Questa is a pillar of northern New Mexico,” said US Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández (D-NM-03). “Today’s DOE announcement recognizes the unique economic and environmental challenges Questa has faced.”

“It is crucial that the federal government prioritizes support for low-income communities and communities of color to make the clean energy transition.” said U.S. Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA-09)

Communities LEAP is supported by six DOE offices: Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Electricity, Indian Energy, Policy, and Economic Impact and Diversity.