A Bill: Cash From Congress to Make Office Buildings Green

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Senate Bill 761 Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013

The Essentials
1. While the Obama administration has been drafting energy policies it can adopt without Congress’s approval, the Senate has also been quietly addressing climate change. S. 761 sets aside $250 million for states to help property owners retrofit buildings for greater energy efficiency and $200 million for state and local governments that enact stricter environmentally friendly building codes. The bill requires federal agencies to cut the energy their computers, data centers, and cars use.

2. Environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, see the legislation as a no-brainer; commercial and residential buildings account for 40 percent of U.S. energy use. Several hundred companies and business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are also backing the bill. They see an expanding market for insulation and other energy-saving products. That broad support makes S. 761 one of the few energy bills with a future this year.

3. In May, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed the legislation, 19-3. It’s now an amendment magnet for an array of thorny energy issues—the Keystone XL pipeline and offshore drilling among them. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and the committee’s chair, is trying to broker deals with colleagues who might tack on provisions that have nothing to do with power conservation. The bill’s lead sponsors are pushing for a full Senate vote after the July 4 recess.

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