The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has selected Sacramento State to house a new regional Environmental Finance Center, which will offer financial expertise to rural, disadvantaged, and tribal communities that struggle with how to pay the increasing costs of protecting public health and the environment.

The EPA will fund the University’s work with a six-year grant worth up to $6 million.

Sac State’s Environmental Finance Center will serve EPA Region 9, which includes California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, the Pacific islands, and 148 tribes. Its headquarters will be in the Office of Water Programs (OWP), a nonprofit within the College of Engineering and Computer Science that is the world’s largest producer of home-study training materials for operators and managers of water and wastewater treatment and collection facilities.

OWP spearheaded the competitive grant application with two partners: the nonprofit Rural Community Assistance Corporation and the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona.

“This project is a tremendous opportunity,” says Ramzi Mahmood, OWP’s director. “It will allow us to better integrate our research and training groups for the benefit of tribal and non-tribal disadvantaged communities throughout the West.”

The Environmental Finance Center will be charged with “improving utility and energy operations, implementing and refining asset management, reducing costs, and securing financial resources for these programs while promoting environmental justice throughout their jurisdictions,” according to the EPA’s website.  To accomplish these goals, Sacramento State’s center will offer tools, training, and technical assistance for drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, groundwater, and solid waste programs. Much of the training and technical assistance will be offered onsite in the communities.

“Public health and environmental issues are very challenging for disadvantaged communities,” says Mahmood.  “We will be a resource to help them solve local problems.”

In addition to Sacramento State, the following were selected to house new Environmental Finance Centers: University of Southern Maine, Syracuse University, University of Maryland, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Michigan Technical University, the University of New Mexico, Wichita State University and the Rural Community Assistance Corporation. – Dixie Reid