The Nebraska Environmental Trust has scheduled three “listening sessions” beginning Tuesday to gather ideas on whether changes are needed in the state’s process of awarding environmentally beneficial grants.
The trust, which subsidizes about $20 million a year after winning state lottery earnings, has been criticized for several grant decisions in recent years.
Controversy in 2020
Two years ago, a decision to award $1.5 million to a project to install ethanol blender pumps at gas stations instead of reimbursing some of the grants to conservation projects sparked lawsuits and drew criticism from watchdog groups. caused it.
In May, the trust’s board appointed a committee to consider changes to Title 137, the rules and regulations that guide government agencies.
At the time, the Board identified 11 concerns about current regulatory clarity, including the implications of subsidy eligibility requirements related to cost benefits, environmental and economic impacts, and “private interests.”
Ricketts Opposes Perpetual Easement
The Board also proposed clarifying the eligibility requirements for “easements.”
Conservation easements have become controversial in recent years. The board regularly funded conservation easements intended to protect the property from development. But Gov. Pete Ricketts, who appoints or employs a majority of board members and some farm groups, opposes a permanent conservation easement. Ricketts refused to appoint any dissenting member to the board.
According to Karl Elmshauser, Executive Director of the Trust, the comments from the listening sessions will be used by the board to develop proposed changes to Title 137. Any changes are subject to future public hearings and possibly approval.
Changes before the 2023 grant deadline
Elmshaeuser said he hopes some changes will be made before the September 2023 grant application deadline.
Listening sessions are scheduled for:
- Tuesday, 1-2 pm CDT, Ferguson House, 700 S. 16th St., Lincoln.
- November 9, 12:00-1:00 PM CDT, State Office Building, 3rd Floor, Room E, 1313 Farnam St., Omaha.
- November 15, 12:00-1:00 PM CST, Kearney Public Library, 1st Avenue, Kearney, 2020.
- December 5th from 1-2pm CST via Zoom link: http://outdoornebraska.zoom.us/j/99507450632
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