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The City of East Lansing may use stimulus funds to further sustainability efforts

March 1, 2022
<p>Tannenbaum Christmas Tree Farm on December 13, 2020.

Tannenbaum Christmas Tree Farm on December 13, 2020.

Photo by Lauren Snyder | The State News

In this month’s East Lansing Commission on the Environment, or ELCOE, meeting, members discussed the possibility of using federal stimulus funds to advance the city’s sustainability efforts.

These initiatives would be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2020, a $1.9 trillion stimulus package designed to offset the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The City of East Lansing was allocated around $12.2 million as the result of the act, and ELCOE was asked to consider sustainability efforts and environmental initiatives that could be funded through some of this money.

Councilmembers floated a variety of ideas, including a storm shelter that would double as a resource center where homeowners can learn about sustainability.

“I think it’s a perfect balance of a showcase, and then functional too,” commission member Jessica Crawford said.

Crawford also suggested that the funds could be invested into clean energy and climate resiliency planning. Climate resiliency is usually considered to be the anticipation and response to negative impacts related to climate.

Commission member Michael Townley suggested that the money could be used for several improvements in infrastructure, like working to improve energy efficiency in city buildings. 

“Could these funds be used to upgrade city owned buildings?” Townley asked. “Can we put solar panels on buildings? Can we get LED lights in all of the city-owned facilities? Can we ‘energy efficiency’ the heck out of everything?”

Townley also suggested the implementation of rain gardens, depressed areas in a landscape populated with grasses and flowers that soak up water and prevent runoff. 

Commission members will be compiling a list of their top choices for consideration of city council.

ELCOE also made plans to update East Lansing’s Climate Sustainability Plan, which has not been updated since 2016, and heard a special presentation from city wetland consultant Dianne Martin on potential updates to the city's wetland ordinance.

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