House of Representatives to Reduce Energy Consumption by 50 Percent in Just 10 Years
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today the completion of the final "Green the Capitol" report, which confirms her initial plan to immediately begin reducing the levels of carbon dioxide emitted by House operations and buildings, but also details how the institution will dramatically reduce its overall energy consumption - by 50 percent - in just 10 years.
Rep. Wasserman Schultz (FL-20), as Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Legislative Branch Subcommittee, will coordinate the funding of the Green the Capitol initiative.
Two new elements of the final, revised plan also call for the House to purchase carbon offsets, allowing for the investment in carbon dioxide reduction projects elsewhere in the United States, and for day-to-day operations and business practices to not have a negative impact on the environment by using non-toxic cleaning products, increasing water conservation and significantly improving recycling.
"The House of Representatives must lead by example by reducing the impact we have on the environment and our future generations," said Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz. "Through the Green the Capitol initiative we will show not only that these actions are environmentally beneficial, but are fiscally sound."
Just four months ago, Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer directed the Chief Administrative Officer to conduct an intense energy audit of the entire complex, which is comprised of six federal office buildings spanning more than 6.2 million square feet. That directive was carried out with the goal of making half of the Capitol complex "carbon neutral" in 18 months, equivalent to the elimination of pollution from 17,200 cars by December 2008. The final report provides a roadmap to accomplishing not only that original goal, but to also halving the House's energy use over the next decade.
"Global warming and climate change are formidable issues that the entire world is confronting, and the United States Congress must lead by example," said Pelosi. "This plan is an essential first step, because it not only will make the House a better place to work and live near, but it will also make our institution a model -- one that cares about what kind of planet our children will inherit."
The 10-year plan to reduce energy consumption in the House calls for a reduction of 5 percent a year, which is more than twice what the 2005 Energy Policy Act requires of federal buildings.
The dramatic reduction in the House's reliance on electricity will come from: the widespread installation of energy efficient lighting; the redesign and centralization of computer systems and other electronic office equipment; the upgrading of all heating and cooling mechanisms to maximize efficiency and meet "green" standards; and the evaluation and improvement of miscellaneous House operations and processes to maximize energy efficiencies.
"Energy independence and combating global warming are issues of environmental, economic and national security," said Hoyer. "Congress must lead by example in using energy more efficiently and from renewable resources, and this report gives us a road map to do just that."
The Green the Capitol Initiative proposes meeting the Speaker's 2008 deadline for carbon neutrality by implementing three key strategies.
First, since electricity use is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions from House operations, the Speaker has directed that all purchased electricity must come from renewable energy sources (such as solar or wind power.) Buying from these clean sources immediately eliminates 57,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually (equivalent to instantly and permanently removing 11,000 cars from the road).
The second effort designed to achieve carbon-neutrality calls for the House of Representatives to stop burning coal at the Capitol Power Plant. This action will reduce the emissions from the plant by 30 percent. The cost associated with switching to cleaner natural gas has already been placed in the Legislative Branch Appropriations bill that the House will vote on this week.
The third pillar of the carbon-neutrality strategy, the buying of the carbon offsets, balances out the remaining 24,000 tons of carbon emissions still being released into the atmosphere by House operations. Offsets are credits that are purchased (in this case from the Chicago Climate Exchange) to offset carbon emissions through investment in other U.S.-based environmentally-friendly projects.
"This isn't just a plan, it's a pledge," added Pelosi, referring to the new section of the initiative that emphasizes better recycling practices, more efficient water use and the procurement of environmentally safe products. "It's a contract between us and our kids and grandchildren, one that says we care about the world we live in today and the world they'll live in tomorrow."