Hopes to revive regional programs offering homeowners and small businesses long-term loans to advance renewable and energy efficiency retrofits hinge largely on a court order directing a federal housing agency to justify its decision to halt the programs. The door was opened when the Northern District Court of California directed the Federal Housing Financing Agency last summer to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking and solicit public comments on its decision to block the lending programs. The notice was published in the Federal Register at the end of January. \u201cThis is a huge opportunity for the public to weigh in\u201d on Property Assessed Clean Energy programs, Kit Kennedy, Natural Resources Defense Council attorney, said Feb. 15. Such programs were launched by Los Angeles County, Berkeley, Sonoma, Palm Beach, and other municipalities in and outside California, \u201cWe feel that the FHFA concerns are dramatically overstated,\u201d added Cliff Staton, chief marketing officer for Renewable Funding, based in Oakland. After red ink started flooding out of thousands of bum home mortgages, the federal agency that oversees mortgage entities Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae targeted public renewable financing programs. These programs gave private property owners loans to cover the large upfront retrofit costs that were to be repaid by long-term property tax assessments. The rub was that the lending munis were put at the front of the line in the event of a default, ahead of mortgage lenders. The renewable financing advocates hope public feedback results in the federal agency re-evaluating its assessment, and allowing the restart of the public renewable financing programs in California and 27 other states The proposed rulemaking seeks feedback by March 26 on whether the agency\u2019s PACE prohibition \u201cshould be maintained, changed, or eliminated, and whether other restrictions or conditions should be imposed,\u201d according to the Federal Register. Meanwhile, suits brought by the state and Sonoma County are moving slowly through the court system. \u201cEverything is still in a state of play in California litigation,\u201d said Kennedy. At the federal level, legislation was introduced--HR 2599--to revive the PACE programs. Renewable funding advocates have sought reforms to the program to decrease lending risks. They include provisions deeming one-third of property owners ineligible for the program, requiring assessments proving retrofits save energy, and mandating audits by qualified auditors. To date, 51 lawmakers have signed on in support. Freedom of Information Act requests to access the FHFA\u2019s reasoning for its July 2010 decision to stop the PACE programs have fallen on deaf ears. \u201cWe have not gotten anything out of them,\u201d said Adam Browning, Vote Solar executive director.