Bangor, ME, Oct 24, 2013 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced funding for rural electric utility system improvements that will benefit residential and business customers in 23 states. The projects include more than $14.3 million to implement smart grid technology and nearly $11 million to improve electric service for Native Americans. U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino made the announcement on the Secretary's behalf while addressing a regional meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association in San Antonio, Texas.
"These investments will ensure that rural electric infrastructure will continue to meet the electricity needs of rural residents, farmers, and commercial and industrial customers," Padalino said. "This funding is part of the Obama Administration's vision for a new rural energy economy. It includes investments in smart grid technologies that modernize our nation's electric system and improve its operation."
In Maine, Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative, Inc., has been selected to receive an Electric Guaranteed Loan in the amount of $5,900,000 to build 71 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements in Maine's rural areas.
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, "The USDA Rural Development funding invested in Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative, Inc. will benefit rural homeowners, community facilities, and businesses in Washington, Penobscot, and Aroostook counties by providing for expansion and enhancement of reliable electric service so critical to rural areas like these in Maine."
Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Scott Hallowell said,
"Our partnership with USDA Rural Development is a valuable resource for supporting rural communities. This loan will provide a source of funding which will support the continuing efforts of the Cooperative to make cost effective system improvements and improve the quality of service for the members of the Cooperative."
The $960 million in USDA loan guarantees announced today will help build 3,587 miles of line, benefit approximately 17,000 rural residential and business customers, and make other system improvements. Including today's announcement, the Obama Administration has invested $152 million in smart grid technologies nationwide during 2013.
View the list of recipients. USDA funding is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.
USDA has made a concerted effort to deliver results for the American people, even as USDA implements sequestration – the across-the-board budget reductions mandated under terms of the Budget Control Act. USDA has already undertaken historic efforts since 2009 to save more than $828 million in taxpayer funds through targeted, common-sense budget reductions. These reductions have put USDA in a better position to carry out its mission, while implementing sequester budget reductions in a fair manner that causes as little disruption as possible.
USDA Rural Development has Area Offices located in Presque Isle, Bangor, Lewiston, and Scarborough, as well as a State Office, located in Bangor. There are 62 employees working to deliver the agency's Housing, Business, and Community Programs, which are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, and farmers, and improve the quality of life in rural Maine. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA Rural Development's web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/me.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).