Green in the Spotlight on Capitol Hill This Week

by kespeland on May 15, 2009

The U.S. House of Representatives is shining its legislative spotlight on the environment this week. House Democrats have been hashing out the details of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bill sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.). The bill is the first climate change legislation to get environmentalists pretty excited.  Although it is slated for markup in committee on Monday, May 18, it has a long way to go before it hits the President’s desk. Still, the bill’s supporters – environmental and political, alike – are hopeful.

One of the more contentious provisions worked out this week has to do with what role utilities will play in reducing emissions and boosting energy efficiency. From the committee’s website: “The agreement provides for a combined 20 percent renewable energy and energy efficiency standard by 2020. By 2020, utilities would be required to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources and demonstrate annual electricity savings of five percent from energy efficiency measures.”

On a related note, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to hold a public hearing at its conference center in Arlington, Va., on the same day about its recent finding that carbon dioxide, as a global warming contributor, is a threat to human health and should be regulated just like other pollutants. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the EPA, under the Bush administration, to do just that, but critics said the agency dragged its feet – until now.

Also this week, Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) got some traction on a bill he sponsored, called the “21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act.” It’s designed to provide funding to help schools renovate and modernize facilities to be greener and healthier for students. Chandler says he believes the funding, if approved, would be a nice complement for a program already up and running in Kentucky – the Green and Healthy Schools program. It encourages students, teachers and staff to identify ways to reduce schools’ environmental impacts.

All of this activity could mean significant steps toward addressing global warming, but especially the Waxman-Markey bill. For now, analysts believe it stands a good chance. But we’ll have to see what happens in the Senate.

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