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Show Me the Money (And How to Manage It)
Environmental Finance Centers Explain Fiscal Management

By Mark Kemp-RyeOn Tap Associate Editor

Environmental Finance Information Online
The Environmental Finance Information Network (EFIN) Web site (www.epa.gov/efinpage/efin.htm) provides a central source for information about funding alternatives for state and local environmental programs and projects.

Developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the site contains abstracts of reports, articles, and publications about environmental finance, plus case studies that demonstrate successful uses of funding methods. Most EFIN listings include names and contact information.

“Show me the money,” athlete Rod Tidwell (as played by Cuba Gooding, Jr.) said over and over in the movie Jerry Maguire. It was a phrase that caught on with the public and could be heard frequently in the late 1990s. Utilities—while rarely as crass as Tidwell—probably have been tempted to echo his refrain at one time or another.

Whether it’s securing funds for major infrastructure projects or seeking better ways to keep a system solvent, money is at the heart of many small water system concerns.

For utilities and communities interested in better financial management, there’s help available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Finance Network. Established in 1992, the network consists of nine Environmental Finance Centers (EFCs) located at universities scattered around the country. Each center has experts who provide training and assistance to state and local governments so that they can find ways to finance environmental compliance and sustainable development.

Contact the EFC in Your Region
To learn more about the Environmental Finance Center in your area or about one dealing with a topic that interests you, see the following:

Region 1
Environmental Finance Center
University of Southern Maine

96 Falmouth St.
PO Box 9300
Portland, ME 04104-9300
Phone: (207) 780-4418
E-mail: barringr@usm.maine.edu
Web: efc.muskie.usm.maine.edu

Specialization—This EFC investigates emerging approaches and techniques of land conservation and creates education and training programs for their use and development.

Region 2
Environmental Finance Center
Syracuse University

219 Maxwell Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244-1090
Phone: (315) 443-9438
E-mail: farrell@maxwell.syr.edu
Web: www.maxwell.syr.edu/efc/

Specialization—This EFC explores the issues of full-cost pricing of environmental services, the value of intergovernmental cooperation (both nationally and internationally) in addressing environmental improvement projects, collaborative planning among public and private environmental service providers, and the coordination of technical assistance services available to rural communities.

Region 3
Environmental Finance Center
University of Maryland

0112 Skinner Hall
College Park, MD 20742
Phone: (301) 403-4220 ext. 26
E-mail: greer@mdsg.umd.edu
Web: www.efc.umd.edu

Specialization—This EFC at Maryland uses charrettes (special focus groups lead by experts) as a technique to help communities in Region 3 obtain information on the nature of finance issues facing them.

Region 4
Environmental Finance Center
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

CB #3330 Knapp Building
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3330
Phone: (919) 966-5381
E-mail: richard_whisnant@unc.edu
Web: www.efc.unc.edu/index.html

Specialization—The EFC@UNC’s core mission focuses on the environmental financing needs of underserved populations in small- to medium-sized communities, particularly those that are considering interlocal or regional arrangements for environmental infrastructure.

Region 4
Environmental Finance Center
University of Louisville

426 W. Bloom Street
Louisville, KY 40208
Phone: (502) 852-8032
E-mail: pbmeyer@louisville.edu
Web:
cepm.louisville.edu/

Specialization—This center draws on experts in pollution prevention, environmental and civil engineering, environmental education, law, and the health and biological sciences in pursuing economically efficient sustainable
development and environmental protection.

Region 5
Environmental Finance Center
Cleveland State University

Economic Development Program, UB 215
Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs
Cleveland, OH 44115
Phone: (216) 687-2188
e-mail: kobrlc@ix.netcom.com
Web: www.csuohio.edu/glefc/

Specialization—The Great Lakes EFC focuses on brownfield site redevelopment and industrial pollution financing, especially financial issues affecting the availability of credit and financial tools and incentives to spur investment in abandoned commercial and industrial sites.

Region 6
Environmental Finance Center
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

The Institute for Engineering Research and Applications (IERA)
901 University Blvd., SE
Albuquerque, NM 87106-4339
Phone: (505) 272-7357
E-mail: efc@efc.nmt.edu
Web: efc.unm.edu

Specialization—The New Mexico EFC provides technical assistance to federal, state, and local governments and public and private entities, specifically in capacity development for small water systems. They have a commitment to identifying financing options and promoting low-cost, alternative, and appropriate technologies for projects that will encourage sustainable development, pollution prevention, and source reduction—at affordable and viable levels.

Region 9
Environmental Finance Center IX
Building 7, Alameda Point
851 West Midway Avenue
Alameda, CA 94501
Phone: (510) 749-6867
E-mail: efc9@greenstart.org
Web: www.greenstart.org/efc9

Specialization—The Region 9 center explores development of successful models for public-private partnerships financing environmental systems, emphasizing greater participation of small- and medium-sized businesses.

Region 10
Environmental Finance Center
Boise State University

1910 University Drive
Boise, Idaho 83725
Phone: (208) 426-4293
E-mail: bjarock@boisestate.edu
Web: sspa.boisestate.edu/efc

Specialization—This center coordinates analysis training and outreach activities about the viability assessment of drinking water systems.

“We help state and local governments figure out how to pay for environmental programs,” says Jeff Hughes, associate director of the EFC at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “We’ve found that great ideas that are not grounded with some type of sustainable financing system rarely lead to long lasting environmental improvements. We use different approaches for different types of programs. We work a lot with utilities and try to institutionalize financial planning within their organizations by working on things like capital planning and cash flow analysis.”

EFCs Provide Different Expertise
While the Environmental Finance Centers (EFCs) offer some of the same activities, each specializes in a particular area. “The EFCs do have commonalities, but each center has a slightly different focus or specialization,” says Heather Himmelberger, director of the EFC at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. “These differences are intentional for several reasons:
1. The EFCs were set up to service the EPA regions and there are definitely different needs depending on the region;

2. The intent was not to recreate the same center several different times, but rather to increase the power of the network by having different centers provide different types of services. In this way, the network as a whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts;

3. The areas of focus also may stem somewhat from the expertise of the particular university or part of the university where the EFC is located; and

4. The directors of the centers represent many different technical disciplines (e.g., business, public administration, engineering, science) and each center’s specialization in some way reflects the experience and expertise of the director.

“Although the centers certainly have different areas of focus depending on the regions, the issue of water and wastewater is so large and important that many centers do get involved with activities in this area,” says Himmelberger.

Each EFC must also narrow its activities as a matter of practicality. “The potential scope of our work is so great that it’s impossible to cover it all,” says Hughes.

Water Is a Prime Consideration

As Himmelberger notes, water infrastructure financing is a big issue throughout the country. It’s not surprising, then, that most of the EFCs have done work in this area. Here are four that are especially involved in water and wastewater finances:

University of Maryland
Over the last several years, the EFC at the University of Maryland has been involved in a number of water-related projects, including source water protection planning, capacity development, equitable utility rate structures, and capital improvement planning. According to a 2001 annual report, they accomplish much of their work using charrettes (special focus groups lead by experts) and roundtable discussions, in addition to more traditional methods, such as training workshops and conferences.
Recent work at this EFC has focused on watershed protection initiatives. In 2002, they conducted a series of workshops about financing watershed strategies in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The EFC@UNC, as it is affectionately known, recently completed a comprehensive environmental finance course for professionals involved in the planning, delivery, regulation, or financing of environmental infrastructure services. Other projects involve using distance learning to provide training about environmental finance and a database of low-cost loan and grant sources for environmental projects in the Southeast.
“We are within the University of North Carolina Institute of Government,” Hughes explains, “the country’s largest university-based, local government consulting and training program. As a result, we are able to integrate our work into many existing local government-training programs in North Carolina. This environmental finance work is done by a range of professions, including engineers and public finance folks.”

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

The EFC in New Mexico was actually the first center in the network to be established. This EFC has concentrated on capacity development strategies and helping small communities and Indian tribes use EPA’s state revolving loan fund for water and wastewater projects. They also spearheaded the effort—with several of the other EFCs—to create a national source water protection pilot project.

Boise State University
Boise State is perhaps best known for their software programs: CapFinance™, a capital improvement planning and financing tool; RATECheckup™, designed to help utilities with rate setting; Ratio8™, a guidebook and spreadsheet program to help local decision makers evaluate their water utility’s financial condition; and Plan2Fund™, a watershed planning tool. They conduct utility rate design workshops and presentations throughout EPA Region 10.


Service Is Available to All
Suppose your community is interested in a financial topic. What requirements would you need to meet in order to get help from an EFC? What if the EFC in your region doesn’t specialize in the problem you have?

“In general, there are no particular requirements,” says Himmelberger. “However, the big issue is funding. In some cases, a particular center may be able to address the community’s needs on a free basis if that activity fits within the scope of services offered by the EFC and the available funding. In other cases, the request may fall outside of these boundaries, and it may be necessary for the center to either pass on the contact to another EFC, who may be able to help, or to try to seek funding for that project. In other cases, it may be necessary to refer the community to someone else (other than the network) for assistance.”

“We don’t have any formal guidelines,” says Hughes. “However, we use some general criteria to decide how much time we can spend with any one community. Since our time is limited, we try to pick projects that have the potential to serve as models for other communities.”

To learn more about the Environmental Finance Center Network and the various Environmental Finance Centers, write to U.S. EPA, Environmental Financing Center Network, (Mail Code) 2731R, Ariel Rios Building, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C 20460, e-mail efin@epa.gov, or call (202) 564-4994. You may also visit the EFIN Web site at www.epa.gov/efinpage/efc.htm.

About the Author: From 1998 to 2000, Mark Kemp-Rye was the editor of Water Sense, a National Drinking Water Clearinghouse newsletter devoted to financial and management topics.

 

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