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Oct 28 -- The Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), agencies of the Rural Development (RD) mission areas of the United State Department of Agriculture, announce that they are hosting listening sessions for public input regarding implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. Specifically, these listening sessions will provide an opportunity for stakeholders and other interested parties to offer their comments and input.

Written Comments: Interested parties must submit written comments on or before November 28, 2022. All written comments received will be publicly available on www.regulations.gov.

Listening Sessions: Two virtual listening session will be held from 2-4 p.m. ET on Thursday November 3, 2022, and 2-4 p.m. ET Friday, November 4, 2022.

November 3, 2022—This listening session will focus on Sections 22001, 22002, and 22003. The session is aimed at rural communities, rural small businesses, and agricultural producers including renewable energy generation providers, distribution utilities, transportation fueling facilities, fuel distribution facilities, environmental, community and consumer groups, industry associations, and Federal, state, and local government and agencies. To participate interested parties must register at https://www.zoomgov.com/​webinar/​register/​WN_​l_​ptMftKRU2zlJPMdiXF9A.

November 4, 2022—This listening session will focus on Sections 22004. This listening session will be targeted at rural electric cooperatives and related stakeholders as described above. To participate interested parties must register at https://www.zoomgov.com/​webinar/​register/​WN_​HeGqpB7YTYOG6tmBjDyx7g.

Rural Development is an advocate for rural America, administering a multitude of programs, ranging from housing and community facilities to infrastructure and business development. The Agency's mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life in rural communities by providing the leadership, infrastructure, capital, and technical support that enables rural communities to prosper. To achieve its mission, the Agency provides financial support, including loan guarantees, direct loans and grants, and technical assistance to enhance the quality of life and provide the foundation for economic development in rural areas.

The RBCS and RUS received significant funding through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022, Public Law Number 117-169. It is anticipated that this funding will support the long-term resilience, reliability, and affordability of rural electric systems by providing financial assistance to purchase renewable energy, other zero-emission systems, and energy efficiency improvements that will achieve the greatest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions associated with the rural electric system. Additionally, with funding received in the IRA, Rural Development will support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for farms and small businesses through the Rural Energy for America Program and invest in fueling and distribution infrastructure to increase demand for higher blends of biofuels.

Section 22001 of the IRA provides $1 billion in budget authority for loans for renewable energy infrastructure and requires the agency to forgive up to 50 percent of the loan amount if the loan terms and conditions are complied with. In addition, the Secretary may allow forgiveness above 50 percent so long as additional criteria are met. Eligible entities include electric service providers, including municipals, cooperatives, investor-owned and Tribal utilities. Pursuant to IRA all projects must be for build-out of energy conservation systems fueled by solar, hydro, wind, geothermal and biomass, as required by section 317 of the Rural Electrification Act (7 U.S.C. 940g), or for storage of such energy types. Priority will be given to new construction of renewable infrastructure.

Section 22002 of the IRA provides $2.025 Billion for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) which includes a $303.8 million set aside for underutilized technologies and technical assistance. Both amounts will be administered under REAP as a single program, as any monies not used for underutilized technologies will revert to the general REAP fund the following fiscal year. The federal share can increase from 25 percent to 50 percent of total project cost.

Section 22003 of the IRA provides $500 million in grants for infrastructure for blending, storing, supplying, or distributing biofuels. The program may provide a federal share at up to 75% of the total project cost.

Section 22004 of the IRA provides $9.7 billion in budget authority for loans, grants, loan modifications and other financial assistance to support purchase of renewable energy, renewable energy systems, zero-emissions, and carbon capture systems to deploy such systems or to make energy efficiency improvements to generation and transmission systems of eligible entities. Eligible entities include electric cooperatives, current and former RUS electric borrowers, or a cooperative that is serving a predominantly rural area (or a wholly or jointly owned subsidiary of such electric cooperative). Pursuant to the statute, no eligible entity may receive an amount equal to or more than 10% ($970 million in budget authority) of the total amount made available by the subsection (cumulative across all three products). RUS may consider establishing lower funding limits under a Funding Opportunity Announcement.

Rural Development is beginning the development of the funding tools that will be used to deliver this important funding and stakeholder feedback is vital in developing financial assistance products that will be integral to ensuring this funding reaches the intended customers. Rural Development will hold the listening sessions as outlined in the ADDRESSES section of this notice to receive oral comments from stakeholders and the public. The following questions and discussion items are provided as examples of topics stakeholders may wish to provide comment on. Rural Development welcomes pertinent comments that are beyond the scope of these questions. Rural Development is requesting comment and discussion on the following topics . . .

FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-23519

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