by Bruce Walker
Ten Michigan church congregations, each of low-income nature, will share in a $1.24 million grant award for energy-efficiency upgrades.
Federal money will be appropriated through the Sacred Spaces Clean Energy program to “advance environmental justice and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy said in making the announcement Wednesday.
SSCE is part of a 30-month pilot effort of World Renew, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit, and the Christian Reformed Church of North America. Churches of all faiths are qualified to apply for the grants.
The $100,000 grants will be selected by the CWP to make improvements that reduce their consumption of fossil fuels for electricity, heating and cooling.
The grant program is funded through the federally supported Michigan State Energy Program.
“SSCE grant funds support energy efficiency in buildings accessible to the public and providing public services such as health clinics and food pantries,” said Jeff Johnston, a spokesman for EGLE. “The grants also serve the broader public benefit of reducing power demand and greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in low-income environmental justice communities, which bear a historically disproportionate share of the impact of climate change and pollution and also typically have fewer resources to devote to building efficiency upgrades.”
According to EGLE, the program addresses the need to address climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases; and the harm caused by the climate crisis in low-income neighborhoods that can least afford to make changes, along with low-income congregations’ inability to pay for energy efficiency improvements to their facilities because of inequity.
“Congregations and the public should be skeptical that these grants will actually help low-income congregations in Michigan improve the energy efficiency of their building,” Jason Hayes told The Center Square. He’s environmental director for Public Policy at the Mackinac Center.
“Audits of weatherization programs, completed by the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General have consistently reported that these programs are a well-spring of fraud, abuse, and mismanagement,” Hayes continued. “These programs are known for giving special access to a few well-connected businesses and organizations, but the final results are, at best, mixed. Audit reports listed a majority of recipients that had substandard or incomplete work and failed inspections. State governments should not be singing the praises of grant programs that are so prone to failure,” he said.
Congregations qualify according to budgets, size, years in operation, and building status as public rather than residential.
EGLE notes that preference will be given to those within environmental justice communities, and applicants also must operate active programs such as food pantries or health clinics.
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.
Photo “Christian Reformed Church” by Christian Reformed Church in North America – CRCNA.