House Passes Energy Efficiency Bill for Commercial Buildings

Photographer: Rick Bowmer/AP Photo

The new $125 million police and fire headquarters building in Salt Lake City. Project manager Chad Jones says the state-of-the-art facility was designed to be open and inviting and energy efficient while also keeping officers safe. Close

The new $125 million police and fire headquarters building in Salt Lake City. Project... Read More

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Photographer: Rick Bowmer/AP Photo

The new $125 million police and fire headquarters building in Salt Lake City. Project manager Chad Jones says the state-of-the-art facility was designed to be open and inviting and energy efficient while also keeping officers safe.

Bloomberg BNA – The House passed legislation March 4 that aims to boost the energy efficiency of commercial buildings leased to tenants on a strong 375-36 vote.

The Better Buildings Act, sponsored by Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and David McKinley (R-W.Va.), would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a Tenant Star program to promote energy efficiency in commercial spaces leased to tenants. That program would be similar to the existing Energy Star energy efficiency labeling program for appliances.

Many aspects of the House legislation, including the Tenant Star program, are also included in the Senate's Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency legislation, which was reintroduced in that chamber Feb. 27. Despite the broad bipartisan support for both bills, it remains unclear whether legislation can be enacted this year .

Welch and McKinley introduced their legislation in May 2013.

Supporters of the bill include a broad range of groups, including the American Chemistry Council, National Association of Manufacturers, the Alliance to Save Energy, Environment America, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

House Republicans and Democrats alike said they were pleased with the final version of the legislation. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said he hopes the legislation will reach President Barack Obama's desk “in an expeditious way.”

“I hope a strong vote this afternoon would send a pretty good message to the Senate that they can embrace these bills,” Upton said on the House floor.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the legislation by voice vote Jan. 28 .

The Tenant Star provisions would direct the Energy Department to study approaches to improving the energy efficiency of spaces occupied by tenants.

Other provisions of the legislation would direct the Energy Information Administration to expand the collection and dissemination of data through a Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, loosen energy efficiency standards for so-called grid-enabled water heaters, boost energy efficiency in federal data centers and encourage energy benchmarking in commercial buildings.

Welch said the legislation allowed Republicans and Democrats to come together and find common ground on national energy policy.

“Energy efficiency is an approach that really makes sense and we can and should do it,” the Vermont Democrat said on the House floor.

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