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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR Data is current as of July 25, 2014

Title 7: Agriculture
PART 1709—ASSISTANCE TO HIGH ENERGY COST COMMUNITIES


Subpart A—General Requirements


Contents
§1709.1   Purpose.
§1709.2   [Reserved]
§1709.3   Definitions.
§1709.4   Allocation of available funds among programs.
§1709.5   Determination of energy cost benchmarks.
§1709.6   Appeals.
§1709.7   Applicant eligibility.
§1709.8   Electronic submission.
§1709.9   Grant awards and advance of funds.
§1709.10   Ineligible grant purposes.
§1709.11   Award conditions.
§1709.12   Reporting requirements.
§1709.13   Grant administration.
§1709.14   Inspections.
§1709.15   Grant closeout.
§1709.16   Performance reviews.
§1709.17   Environmental review.
§1709.18   Civil rights.
§1709.19   Other USDA regulations.
§1709.20   Member delegate clause.
§1709.21   Audit requirements.
§1709.22   Project changes.
§§1709.23-1709.99   [Reserved]
§1709.100   OMB control number.

§1709.1   Purpose.

The purpose of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Assistance to High Energy Cost Rural Communities Program is to help local communities meet their energy needs through direct loans and grants for energy facilities in qualifying extremely high energy cost communities, grants and loans to the Denali Commission for extremely high energy cost communities in Alaska, and grants to States to support revolving funds to finance more cost effective means of acquiring fuel in qualifying communities. This subpart sets forth definitions and requirements which are common to all grant and loan programs in this part administered by the RUS Electric Program under section 19 of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, as amended (RE Act) (7 U.S.C. 918a).

§1709.2   [Reserved]

§1709.3   Definitions.

Administrator means the Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Agency means the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or a successor agency.

Census block means the smallest geographic entity for which the U.S. Census Bureau collects and tabulates decennial census information and which are defined by boundaries shown on census maps.

Census designated place (CDP) means a statistical entity recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau comprising a dense concentration of population that is not within an incorporated place but is locally identified by a name and which has boundaries defined on census maps.

Electric program means the office within RUS, and its successor organization, that administers rural electrification programs authorized by the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 (RE Act) (7 U.S.C. 901 et seq.) and such other programs so identified in USDA regulations.

Extremely high energy costs means community average residential energy costs that are at least 275 percent of one or more home energy cost benchmarks identified by RUS and based on the latest available information on national average residential energy expenditures as reported by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the United States Department of Energy.

Financial assistance means a grant, loan, or grant-loan combination issued under this part.

Home energy means any energy source or fuel used by a household for purposes other than transportation, including electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, kerosene, liquified petroleum gas (propane), other petroleum products, wood and other biomass fuels, coal, wind and solar energy. Fuels used for subsistence activities in remote rural areas are also included.

High energy cost benchmarks means the criteria established by RUS for eligibility as an extremely high energy cost community. Extremely high energy cost benchmarks are calculated as 275 percent of the relevant national average household energy benchmarks.

Indian Tribe means a Federally recognized tribe as defined under section 4 of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450b) to include “*  *  * any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), that is recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.”

Person means any natural person, firm, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and includes Indian tribes and tribal entities.

State means any of the several States of the United States, and, where provided by law, any Territory of the United States or other area authorized to receive the services and programs of the Rural Utilities Service or the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, as amended.

Target area means the geographic area to be served by the grant.

Target community means the unit or units of local government in which the target area is located.

§1709.4   Allocation of available funds among programs.

The Administrator, in his sole discretion, shall allocate available funds among the programs administered under this part and determine the grant application periods under each program. In making fund allocations for each fiscal year, the Administrator may consider the amount of available funds, the nature and amount of unfunded grant applications and prior awards, Agency resources, Agency priorities, and any other pertinent information.

§1709.5   Determination of energy cost benchmarks.

(a) The Administrator shall establish, using the most recent data available, and periodically revise, the home energy cost benchmarks and the high energy cost benchmarks used to determine community eligibility for high energy cost grant and loan programs and the Denali Commission high energy cost grants and loans. In setting these energy cost benchmarks, the Administrator shall review the latest available information on home energy costs published by the EIA. High energy cost benchmarks will be set at 275 percent of the applicable national average home energy cost benchmark as determined by the Administrator from the published EIA data. Eligibility benchmarks shall be published in each grant announcement.

(b) For use in determining eligibility for High Energy Cost Grants, the Administrator may establish benchmarks for national average annual household expenditures and for national average household per unit energy expenditures for major home energy sources or fuels, including, but not limited to, electricity, natural gas, fuel oil, kerosene, liquified petroleum gas (propane), other petroleum products, wood and other biomass fuels, coal, wind and solar energy.

§1709.6   Appeals.

An applicant may appeal a decision by the Assistant Administrator, Electric Program rejecting an application for failure to meet eligibility requirements. Applicants may not appeal rating panel scores or rankings. An appeal must be made, in writing to the Administrator, within 10 days after the applicant is notified of the determination to reject the application. Appeals must state the basis for the appeal and shall be submitted to the Administrator, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., STOP 1500, Washington, DC 20250-1500. Thereafter, the Administrator will review the appeal to determine whether to sustain, reverse, or modify the original determination. The Administrator's determination shall be final. A written copy of the Administrator's decision will be furnished promptly to the applicant.

§1709.7   Applicant eligibility.

An outstanding judgment obtained against an applicant by the United States in a Federal Court (other than in the United States Tax Court), which has been recorded, shall cause the applicant to be ineligible to receive a grant or loan under this part until the judgment is paid in full or otherwise satisfied. RUS financial assistance under this part may not be used to satisfy the judgment.

§1709.8   Electronic submission.

Applicants may submit applications and reports electronically if so provided in the applicable grant announcement and grant agreements or if other regulations provide for electronic submission. Any electronic submissions must be in the form prescribed in the applicable grant announcement, grant agreement, or regulation.

§1709.9   Grant awards and advance of funds.

The grantee must execute a grant agreement that is acceptable to the Agency. The grantee must sign and return the grant agreement to the Agency, within the time specified, before any grant funds will be advanced.

§1709.10   Ineligible grant purposes.

Grant funds under this part may not be used to:

(a) Pay costs of preparing the application package for funding under programs in this part, or for any finders fees or incentives for persons or entities assisting in the preparation or submission of an application.

(b) Fund political activities;

(c) Pay any judgment or debt owed to the United States; or

(d) Pay construction costs of the project incurred prior to the date of grant award except as provided herein. Construction work should not be started and obligations for such work or materials should not be incurred before the grant is approved.

(1) Applicants may request Agency approval for reimbursement of pre-award construction obligations if there are compelling reasons for proceeding with construction before grant approval. Such requests may be approved if the Agency determines that:

(i) Compelling reasons, as determined by the Agency, exist for incurring obligations before grant approval;

(ii) The obligations will be incurred for authorized grant purposes;

(iii) All environmental requirements applicable to the Agency and the applicant have been met;

(iv) The applicant has the legal authority to incur the obligations at the time proposed, and payment of the debts will remove any basis for any mechanic's, material, or other liens that may attach to the grant financed property: and

(v) The expenditure is incurred no more than 18 months before the date of the Administrator's approval of the grant award.

(2) The Agency may authorize payment of approved pre-award project construction obligations at the time of award approval. The applicant's request and the Agency's authorization for paying such obligations shall be in writing.

§1709.11   Award conditions.

In addition to all other grant requirements, all approved applicants will be required to do the following:

(a) Enter into a grant agreement with the Agency in form and substance acceptable to the Agency;

(b) Request advances or reimbursements, as applicable, as provided in the grant agreement; and

(c) Maintain a financial management system that is acceptable to the Agency.

§1709.12   Reporting requirements.

To support Agency monitoring of project performance and use of grant funds, Grantees shall file periodic reports, required under 7 CFR part 3015, as provided in this part, and the grant agreement as follows:

(a) A financial status report listing project expenditures by budget category in such form and at such times as provided in the grant agreement.

(b) Project performance reports in such form and at such intervals as provided in the grant agreement. The project performance report shall compare accomplishments to the objectives stated in the proposal and grant agreement. The project performance report should identify all completed tasks with supporting documentation. If the project schedule as approved in the grant agreement is not being met, the report should discuss the problems or delays that may affect completion of the project. Objectives for the next reporting period should be listed. Compliance with any special condition on the use of award funds should be discussed. Reports are due as provided in the grant agreement.

(c) A final project performance report with supporting documentation in such form and at the time specified in the grant agreement.

(d) Such other reports as the Agency determines are necessary to assure effective grant monitoring as part of the grant agreement or the grant announcement as a condition of the grant award or advances of funds.

§1709.13   Grant administration.

The authority to approve administrative actions is vested in the Administrator except as otherwise provided in the RUS delegations of authority. Administration of RUS grants is governed by the provisions of this subpart and subpart B of this part, the terms of the grant agreement and, as applicable, the provisions of 7 CFR parts 3015, 3016 and 3017, or their successors.

§1709.14   Inspections.

The grantee will permit periodic inspection of the grant project operations by a representative of the Agency.

§1709.15   Grant closeout.

Grant closeout is when all required work is completed, administrative actions relating to the completion of work and expenditure of funds have been accomplished, the final project report has been submitted and found acceptable by RUS and RUS accepts final expenditure information. No monitoring action by RUS of the grantee is required after grant closeout. However, grantees remain responsible in accordance with the terms of the grant agreement for compliance with conditions on property acquired or derived through grant funds.

§1709.16   Performance reviews.

Each grant agreement shall include performance criteria and RUS will regularly evaluate the progress and performance of grantee according to such criteria. If the grantee does not comply with or does not meet the performance criteria set out in the grant agreement, the Administrator may require amendment of the grant agreement, or may suspend or terminate the grant pursuant to 7 CFR 2015, subpart N.

§1709.17   Environmental review.

(a) All grants made under this subpart are subject to the requirements of 7 CFR part 1794 or its successor.

(b) Applicants must address environmental aspects of their projects in the grant application in sufficient detail to allow the Agency to categorize the project for purposes of compliance with environmental review requirements. The grant announcement will establish the form and content of the environmental information required for the application.

(c) Projects that are selected for grant awards by the Administrator will be reviewed by the Agency under 7 CFR part 1794 prior to final award approval. The Agency may require the selected applicant to submit additional information, including an environmental report, environmental assessment, or environmental impact statement, as may be required, concerning the proposed project in order to complete the required reviews and to develop any project-specific conditions for the final grant agreement.

§1709.18   Civil rights.

This program will be administered in accordance with applicable Federal Civil Rights Law. All grants made under this subpart are subject to the requirements of title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin. In addition, all grants made under this subpart are subject to the requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability; the requirements of the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age; and title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by private entities in places of public accommodations. Grantees are required to comply with certain regulations on nondiscrimination in program services and benefits and on equal employment opportunity including 7 CFR parts 15 and 15b; and 45 CFR part 90, as applicable.

§1709.19   Other USDA regulations.

The grant programs under this part are subject to the provisions of other departmental regulations, including but not limited to the following departmental regulations, or their successors, as applicable:

(a) 7 CFR part 3015, Uniform Federal Assistance Regulations;

(b) 7 CFR part 3016, Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments;

(c) 7 CFR part 3017, Governmentwide Debarment and Suspension (Nonprocurement) and Governmentwide Requirements for Drug-Free Workplace (Grants);

(d) 7 CFR part 3018, New Restrictions on Lobbying;

(e) 7 CFR part 3019, Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Agreements with Institutions of Higher Education, Hospitals and Other Non-profit Organizations; and

(f) 7 CFR part 3052, Audits of States, Local Governments and Non-profit Organizations.

§1709.20   Member delegate clause.

Each grant agreement under this part shall provide that no member of Congress shall be admitted to any share or part of a grant program or any benefit that may arise there from, but this provision shall not be construed to bar as a contractor under a grant a publicly held corporation whose ownership might include a member of Congress.

§1709.21   Audit requirements.

The grantee shall provide the Agency with an audit for each year, beginning with the year in which a portion of the financial assistance is expended, in accordance with the following:

(a) If the grantee is a for-profit entity, an RUS Electric or Telecommunication borrower or any other entity not covered by paragraph (b) of this section, the recipient shall provide an independent audit report in accordance with 7 CFR part 1773, “Policy on Audits of RUS Borrowers” and the grant agreement.

(b) If the grantee is a State or local government, or a non-profit corporation (other than an RUS Electric or Telecommunication Borrower), the recipient shall provide an audit in accordance with 7 CFR part 3052.

§1709.22   Project changes.

The Grantee shall obtain prior written approval from the Agency for any change to the scope or objectives of the approved grant project.

§§1709.23-1709.99   [Reserved]

§1709.100   OMB control number.

The information collection requirements in this part are approved by the Office of Management and Budget and assigned OMB control number 0572-0136.



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