SAVING ENERGY, CREATING JOBS
Retrofitting Rutland County homes with a $4.5 million grant for innovative energy efficiency and renewable energy programs will create roughly 350 jobs. “Working with our partners we will be able to retrofit 40 percent of the homes in Rutland County for energy savings, create an estimated 352 jobs, and show the entire country what a single county in Vermont can do with resources and the determination to get it done, ” said Ludy Biddle, executive director of NeighborWorks.
The money is available through a program Bernie created in 2007:
Energy and Environment. As the only a member of the Senate majority to sit on both the Environment and Public Works and the Energy and Natural Resources Committees, Senator Sanders is uniquely positioned to fight for progressive energy polices and increased environmental protection – issues of great importance to him and to all Vermonters. Sanders has been a leading voice on the need to address global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The first bill he introduced as a member of the U.S. Senate was a greenhouse gas emissions reduction bill, and he continues to press for action to move our nation toward energy independence. He also believes that by increasing our energy efficiency and use of sustainable energy, our nation can create millions of new, good-paying jobs in America.
During the 110th Congress (2007-2008), Senator Sanders’ Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, introduced in 2007, offered the most progressive and comprehensive solution to reduce greenhouse gases across the nation of any bill debated in Congress at that time. Sanders also introduced bi-partisan legislation (S. 3224) to put solar panels on ten million roofs across the nation, modeled on a similar initiative in California. Sanders was also very involved with the writing of the energy bill that was signed into law on December 19, 2007. He worked with his colleagues to ensure that the bill included a green jobs workforce training program (the Green Jobs Act, Title X of P.L. 110-140, co-authored with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton), a block grant program to support the efforts of state and local governments to reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions (Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, Section 541 of P.L. 110-140, co-authored with Sen. Robert Menendez), and a grant program to support public institutions, including our colleges and universities, as they engage their students in campus efforts to become more energy efficient and install renewable energy technologies (Section 471 of P.L. 110-140).
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program and Green Jobs Act were funded through the 2009 economic recovery package (aka the stimulus plan). The State of Vermont and its cities, towns and counties received almost $12 million to invest in making buildings and transportation more energy efficiency through the block grant program. Also as part of the stimulus package, Vermont received a grant of nearly $69 million for utilities to install smart meters and other smart grid technology that will help consumers learn more about their energy use and save on their energy bills.
In the 111th Congress (2009-2010), Senator Sanders worked to shape energy and global warming legislation. He successfully offered several amendments to the American Clean Energy Leadership Act (S. 1462) in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, including an amendment to help homeowners and renters finance energy efficiency retrofits and an amendment to promote renewable energy development on brownfields.
On the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sanders worked with Chairman Barbara Boxer and others to strengthen the Kerry-Boxer (S. 1733) Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. Among the provisions Sanders fought for and which were included in the committee-approved legislation are:
- Emissions Reduction Target is 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 (House bill includes a 17 percent reduction);
- Retaining EPA’s authority to regulate the oldest and dirtiest power plants under Clean Air Act;
- International Offsets reduced from 1 billion tons annually in House bill to half a billion tons annually in Senate bill;
- Funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs is significantly increased, from 9.5% in year 1 in the House bill (which also included transportation), to nearly 11% in year 1 in the Senate bill (not including transportation, which gets separate additional funding);
- Funding is provided for utility-scale renewable energy projects such as solar thermal, wind, and biomass, through a 15 percent carve-out of the renewable energy and energy efficiency funds;
- Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (created by Sens. Sanders and Menendez) for local governments gets 25% of efficiency and renewable funding;
- Thermal Energy Efficiency Act, S. 1621, introduced by Sens. Sanders and Merkley, gets 10 percent of state energy efficiency funding;
- Transportation Low Emissions Energy Plan, S. 1721, introduced by Sen. Sanders, is included and gets funding for Dept. of Transportation to map out electric vehicle recharging stations on roads and highways, and fund pilot programs including for freight and in rural areas;
- Green Jobs Act (written and passed by Sen. Sanders and then-Sen. Clinton) gets funding for 2012-2015 (in House was only 2 years);
- Leading states such as Vermont get an incentive in the form of increased state funding if they continue to be more energy efficient;
- Small rural cooperative and public power customers receive more consumer assistance to help with their energy bills (double the percentage in the House bill);
- Farmers and forest land owners will receive incentives to manage their land in a way that reduces or avoids greenhouse gas emissions; and
- A new program to provide financial assistance to replace old and inefficient wood stoves with newer, cleaner units.
In addition to energy and global warming legislation, Sanders has been working as chairman of the Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee to highlight the economic and job creation opportunities of progressive environmental policies. Sanders chaired a joint subcommittee/full environment committee hearing on green jobs in states and cities on July 21st, 2009. The hearing included testimony from the Governors of Washington, Colorado, New Jersey, and North Dakota, as well as the Mayors of Burlington, Vermont, Newark, New Jersey, and Alexandria, Virginia. In addition, Sanders chaired a field hearing of the subcommittee in Montpelier, Vermont, on August 20th, 2009, to examine Vermont’s leadership on energy efficiency and ways to increase the use of sustainable energy in Vermont, all with an eye towards job creation.
The subcommittee’s efforts will likely focus on solar energy and economic benefits of moving towards an increase in solar energy in the United States. While the U.S. invented the solar cell, our nation now imports nearly half our solar panels and has fallen behind Germany and Spain in solar energy installations.
To read an Associated Press story on the Rutland project, click here.From The Bernie Buzz Issue June 16, 2010 – http://sanders.senate.gov