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Rapid City prepares for major climate and sustainability investments

Creative Commons

Rapid City has been named the recipient of $1 million in grants to create a plan to battle greenhouse gas emissions. It’s an effort city officials hope is only just the beginning.

Rapid City has published its Community Climate Resiliency Plan as part of its involvement in the federal Climate Pollution Reduction Grant program.

Lysanne Zeller is the city sustainability and stewardship program development manager. She said step one was creating the plan to submit to the EPA.

“Our first step was drafting this community climate resilience plan and identified 34 actions across seven themes," Zeller said. "Lots of great ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, everything from planting trees, extending out bike path, doing some renewable energy projects.”

Rapid City has an above average carbon footprint for a community of its size. As a result, the city could have access to as much as $50 million in project funding.

“The EPA has said they’ll make funding awards in October of this year, then it would be, if we’re successful, a few more months before we would actually have access to the funds, then there’s a five-year timeframe for completing projects," Zeller said. "We’re intending to apply for quite a lot of projects that would be implemented over the next five years on varying timeframes. Several within the city, and then some partnerships too with the school district.”

Rapid City became eligible for the grant after the state declined to take part in the program. The city of Sioux Falls also decided against pursuing the funding.

Jamie Toennies, city grant division manager, said it’s an opportunity for Rapid City to become a statewide climate leader.

“What the planning grant has allowed us is to collect the data," Toennies said. "Before this, we couldn’t even have told you what is our areas greenhouse gas emissions – what are those percentages and how do we compare locally, regionally? So, having the funding to take that step is critically important because we want to make data informed decisions that make sense.”

The greenhouse gas inventory for Rapid City, per capita, is a score of about 20. The national average is between 15 and 16.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture