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Meg Waltner’s Blog

Baby Step in the House for Energy Efficiency

Meg Waltner

Posted December 4, 2012 in Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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The House recognized the value of energy efficiency today with the passage of the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act (HR 6582) on a suspension vote of 398 to 2. The fact that there’s anything that 398 members of the House can agree on is certainly worth celebration, even if the bill is only a baby step forward in terms of actual efficiency gains.

On the floor today, members on both sides of the aisle spoke about the need to work together and how this small energy efficiency bill was a step in the right direction. Energy efficiency has long been a policy that both Democrats and Republicans agree on and today’s vote reaffirms this fact. We hope that this is the first step towards further work on efficiency in the next Congress as a way to cut energy bills, reduce pollution, and create jobs – three things which are greatly needed.  There are already many great bipartisan bills on efficiency that have been introduced this Congress (the HOMES Act, efficiency tax incentives, the SAVE Act, and the Shaheen-Portman bill, to name a few). Hopefully the passage of this bill will be the first baby step towards getting some of these or other new ideas on efficiency done in the next Congress. 

While the passage of the bill today is a great small step forward, it is also a missed opportunity for further energy savings. The bill passed today is a small sliver of what it once was. HR 6582 was largely drawn from a bill known as the Implementation of National Consensus Appliance Agreements Act or “INCAAA,” that was made up of various consensus agreements on efficiency standards between manufacturers, consumer groups, and efficiency advocates.  INCAAA, which was at one time an 173 page bill, almost passed the Senate unanimously in late 2010, but was held up by a single silent hold as the clock ran out on the 111th Congress. 

Since then, it has been an uphill battle for INCAAA. Despite strong bipartisan support, the bill was never brought to the floor because some refused to agree on keeping the bill free of unrelated or counter-productive amendments.  Over time, elements of agreements were put into place by regulation at DOE, rendering parts of the bill unnecessary. Other parts of the bill fell apart as agreements unraveled with the passage of time and changing circumstances. 

What’s left is a thin 34 page bill that includes a few of the provisions from INCAAA as well as some provisions from Senators Shaheen and Portman’s Energy Savings Act. Left from INCAAA are a few small improvements to the way DOE sets standards (such as a requirement that standards for commercial products are reviewed every 6 years) and technical corrections to the existing law, as well as small modifications to standards for commercial refrigerators, small duct high velocity air conditioners and heat pumps, and walk-in coolers and freezers. The provisions from Shaheen-Portman left in the bill include requirements for reports on industrial efficiency and advanced metering best practices and a requirement that federal facilities publish energy and water consumption data.

Now the bill will go back to the Senate, where it will likely need to pass by UC again if it is to become law this year. The Senate should reaffirm that efficiency is something we all agree on and then waste no time in getting to work to pass substantially stronger efficiency measures in the next Congress. Doing so will cut energy bills, reduce pollution, and create jobs – three things which are greatly needed now more than ever to help revitalize the economy and improve the health of our communities. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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