Vanishing Automobile Update #20

The Feds Continue to Fund Smart-Growth Groups

October 10, 2001

The Environmental Protection Agency has given more than half a million dollars to smart-growth advocacy groups in 2001. This is on top of the $1.5 million it gave to smart-growth groups in 2000 and the $6 to $7 million it gave in the late 1990s.

Most of these groups use the funds to either lobby for smart growth in their local areas, to "educate" the public about smart growth, or to hold conferences so that smart-growth advocates can meet and work on their political tactics and agendas. Some of these groups are associations of government officials whose staffs lobby various government officials in favor of smart growth.

I have identified the following 2001 grants as smart-growth grants:

Recipient                         Date       Amount    For
Local Gov't Commission            9/18/01    10,000    smart growth conference
Alts for Communities & Env        8/22/01    20,000    
Grow Smart Rhode Island           8/13/01    20,000    brownfields education
1000 Friends of Pennsylvania      8/6/01     45,000    
Congress For New Urbanism         8/3/01     35,000    
Gulf Coast Institute              7/11/01    35,000    smart growth for Houston
Vermont Forum on Sprawl           7/10/01    10,000    sprawl education
Earth Island Institute            6/27/01    15,000    transportation workshops
Vermont Forum on Sprawl           6/21/01    25,000    smart growth
Nat Conf of State Legislatures    5/17/01    10,000    transportation conference
Center for Clean Air Policy       4/19/01   225,000    transport & the environment
Transportation Demand Mgt Inst    4/6/01     69,750    commuter choice
1000 Friends of Florida           3/9/01     50,000    
Environmental League of Mass      2/27/01    10,000    sustainable land use program

In addition, the following may be a smart-growth grant:

Assoc of State Hwy and Trans      8/29/01    30,000

The largest grant in 2000 was $774,300 to the Coalition for Utah's Future. Also in 2000 the EPA gave $100,000 to Environmental Defense to promote "commuter choice" (mandatory reductions in driving), $200,000 to the Conservation Law Foundation to promote a rail network, and $346,000 to various other groups to promote smart growth in one way or another.

The above information was obtained from the EPA grant database. Curiously, this database has been purged of any information about the nearly one million dollars in grants given to the Surface Transportation Policy Project and millions more given to other of EPA's former "transportation partners" (see page 199 of The Vanishing Automobile). It is difficult to know how many other grants are not in the database.

EPA grants may pale in comparison to grants given out by the Federal Highway Administration to government agencies and non-profit groups under section 1221 of the Transportation Efficiency Act of 1998. This section is supposed to fund "Transportation and Community and System Preservation Pilot Programs" (TCSP). Inspired by 1000 Friends of Oregon's "LUTRAQ" (Land Use, Transportation, Air Quality) studies, many though not all of the TCSP grants go for research or studies promoting smart growth.

According to the TCSP web site, the program has given out more than $90 million since it began in 1999. The FHwA expects to give out another $30 million in the next two years.

Most or all of the grants go to a government agency, but the law specifically allowed the agency to "partner" with non-profit groups. For example, New Jersey Transit received $535,000 to plan for "transit-friendly communities."

The grant proposal specifically states that NJT will share the money with other groups "to leverage the talents and resources of its non-profit and government partners leaders in smart growth, community and downtown revitalization, regional planning, and public education." Four non-profits are specifically mentioned, including Downtown New Jersey, New Jersey Future, the Project for Public Spaces, and the Regional Planning Association.

The Central Puget Sound Region (a regional government) received $400,000 to promote "transit station communities." The grant says that the funds will be shared with 1000 Friends of Washington, which will do "public education," including "community forums and radio ads." Other "partners" include the Transportation Choices Coalition, Washington Environmental Council, Livable Communities Coalition, Bicycle Alliance of Washington, and Sustainable Seattle.

Unfortunately, the TCSP web site does not yet provide detailed information about most of these grants. The grants page on the site includes a $600,000 grant given to the Lane Council of Governments in Oregon. This money helped pay for a smart-growth newspaper insert that was sent to 450,000 households in Oregon. The Willamette Valley Livability Project, a group that was created by 1000 Friends of Oregon, wrote the insert, while the Lane Council of Governments only helped with the layout (so the insert says).

But the TCSP grants page does not mention the Willamette Valley Livability Project or other partners. The web page promises to eventually fill in the blanks for many of these projects.

However, it appears that many TCSP grants are used by government agencies to develop smart growth proposals. These agencies share the money with non-profits so that the non-profits can engage in public lobbying for those proposals. This subverts the laws in many states that forbid the government agencies from lobbying.

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