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Following green stimulus monies to find biz stories on your beat

A screenshot from a story on green stimulus monies awarded to several small businesses in Texas. The story was written by Asher Price of the Austin American-Statesman.

During our Covering the Green Economy conference in June, Russ Choma showed reporters how to dig through stimulus spending to find the money earmarked for green projects on their beats.

Choma, an investigative journalist based in Washington, knows this topic well. He authored the series, Blown Away: America’s billions for clean-energy jobs are flying overseas,” which found that more than 80 percent of the first $1 billion in grants to wind-energy companies went to foreign firms.

Asher Price, an environmental reporter from the Austin American-Statesman, took Choma’s tips seriously. And it didn’t him long to put what he learned during the session into action.

Price’s recent story highlights an area of green stimulus energy spending that has often fell under the public’s radar. His piece,Stimulus helps small businesses with clean energy projects,” explains how a dog ranch and a piano workshop in Texas scored a combined total of $39,530 in federal monies for renewable energy projects. The grants helped the two small business install solar panels, a result that’s helping the environment and saving them money.

Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“Over the past year, the Department of Energy has showered billions of stimulus dollars on clean energy efforts, mostly to large-scale wind and solar projects nationally and in Texas. Tucked among these hefty grants, however, are seemingly random payouts like the $23,948 for DogBoy’s Dog Ranch and the $15,582 to Rappaport’s Piano Workshop outside of Round Rock, according to a Statesman review of a federal stimulus program for commercial renewable energy projects. Statewide, they include an animal hospital in Odessa and an aerospace engineering laboratory in the small town of Justin, north of Fort Worth. The owners of these small businesses used their savvy and tips from experts to tap an enormous federal chest and cut down on their energy bills.”

Price took the big picture of stimulus spending and narrowed the focus to show how the monies targeted at green projects had trickled down into his coverage area. It’s a story you can find too, just follow’ Choma’s tips and take the time to dig through the deep piles of grants.

Choma was excited to see a story inspired by his presentation, so much so, he blogged about it. He’s even offered to put together another tipsheet for reporters on the latest round of grants. Choma said an additional $2 billion in green stimulus grants were awarded to about 400 participants in June. He’ll share the details in a post on BusinessJournalism.org in October on how you can track that money to find stories in your area.

But if you’ve got the itch and are ready to begin digging right away, check out our archive of our Covering the Green Economy materials, including videos, PowerPoints and handouts from Choma’s presentation: “The challenges and rewards of reporting the biggest pro-green legislation.”

Or you can register to see his presentation live at our workshop – What’s Next for the Economy in Your Town - in Washington on Oct. 27.

In Energy | Utilities | Mining.

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