Congress Introduces New "Energy Efficiency" Legislation

Contrary to common belief that nothing is really happening in green building at the Congressional level these days, I provide the following two counterexamples. Of course, neither of these efforts are designed to promote energy efficiency or green building, but that doesn't mean that nothing is happening.

 An amendment to the Senate Appropriations Bill for Energy and Water introduced by Senators Wicker (R-MS), Boozman (R-AR), and Inhofe (R-OK) would essentially eliminate the use of LEED and Energy Star for DOE green building programs.  According to the NRDC:  

This rider would prevent the Department of Energy (DOE) from using strong green building energy rating standards. The amendment limits DOE to using only green building standards that are developed and approved in accordance with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rules. Such a requirement would effectively limit DOE to using only the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and Green Globes building standards.The amendment would disallow the use of many other strong rating systems, including LEED, EPA Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and EPA Energy Star Homes, which have substantially increased the number of environmentally-friendly buildings in our country.
 

In other news, Rep. Charles J. Fleischmann [R-TN-3] introduced a bill yesterday in the House H.R.3441 to repeal the Department of Energy's home weatherization assistance program.  The DOE weatherization assistance program provides funding to states to weatherize the homes of low income households to make them more energy efficient.  According to the WAP website:

During the past 33 years, WAP has provided weatherization services to more than 6.4 million low-income households. Families receiving weatherization services see their annual energy bills reduced by an average of about $437, depending on fuel prices.  

According to a recent release from the National Association for State Community Services Programs, the WAP received $5b in funding from ARRA, which weatherized 534,208 low-income houses through August 2011. This made the WAP seventh out of approximately 200 federal programs funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) in jobs created or retained, with 14,090 jobs  for the third quarter beginning July 1 and ending September 30, 2011.

The bill is not yet available from the GPO, but it can be followed on Thomas through this link

 

Green Building Law--Battle of the Blogs

Today, my co-conspirator and green building blog buddy over at Green Building Law Update criticized a post I wrote a few weeks back on Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle vetoing a green building bill that mandated 15% of gross square footage of state space to be LEED certified.  The essence of Chris' piece is that

The Governor properly vetoed spending state funds to certify public buildings as green.

Except, that's not why he vetoed the bill.  He vetoed it because it requires all moneys available for use by the building commission to be devoted to making state buildings green.

In his letter to the senate he stated:

[The requirement that all moneys be used for greening buildings] will result in all current maintenance projects being delayed indefinitely.  In the future, the commitment of all these funds for this single purpose will also sharply curtain the state's ability to build new building or maintain its existing facilities. 

In short, he vetoed it because it was too expensive and that money should be used for building new, non-green facilities or repairing old ones in a non-green manner.

A Love Canal Moment--What The Deepwater Horizon Spill Can Do For Green Legislation

Comprehensive federal environmental regulation does not come easily.  First, there is the difficulty of crafting scientific regulations.  Then there are the entrenched interests to be combated, both in the private sector, and with the states and local governments who may have had authority prior to federal regulation. Compounding these issues is the high cost of regulation and enforcement itself.  Criticisms abound from the right--too much regulation--and the left--too little.  Even after regulations are passed, the government can expect years of litigation over the implementation of regulations.  What congressman needs that kind of headache?  

It takes a galvanizing catastrophe to catapault environmental regulation to the front of the federal stage.  In 1978, Niagara Falls, New York became the subject of national and international attention, controversy, and eventual environmental notoriety following the discovery of 21,000 tons of toxic waste that had been buried beneath the neighborhood by Hooker Chemical. Residents were found to have numerous health problems, including cancer and mental retardation.  After the dump was discovered and 800 families relocated, Congress was motivated to pass the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), or Superfund Act, which requires polluters to remediate toxic sites. 

Deepwater Horizon needs to be this generation's Love Canal moment.  Congress has an unparallelled opportunity to capitalize on the anger, the shock and the awareness of the fragility of the environment currently in the zeitgeist  to pass comprehensive energy legislation.  Thank god, Love Canal moments do not come along often.  It would be a pity to waste it.  

Philadelphia Event Alert--DVGBC Legislative Breakfast on June 4

On Friday, June 4, 2010 from 8:00 - 10:00 am, the Delaware Valley Green Building Council is hosting a green building forum with Pennsylvania state Senator John Rafferty to discuss proposed legislation aimed at promoting more efficient use of energy, water and natural resources through the use of green building standards for state owned and state funded green buildings.

The meeting will provide an opportunity to learn more about House Bill 444 and
Senate Bill 728, which will require that high performance green building standards be
implemented in most new or remodeled building projects owned or funded by the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

I have attached the flyer here, I would love it if GBLB readers in the Philadelphia area would join me at this great event!