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Letter to Chairman and Ranking Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Energy, Water Development

SENATOR COLLINS CALLS FOR INCREASED FUNDING FOR WEATHERIZATION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

Program Helps Mainers Save Energy, Money

A bipartisan group of Senators, led by Senator Susan Collins, is calling on Senate Appropriators to increase funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program. The program has proven to be a crucial and effective resource to help Americans, particularly low-income families, weatherize their homes and deal with the high cost of energy.

Specifically, the Senators are calling on the Committee to increase funding from this year's level of $201.18 million to last year's funding level of $240.55 million. According to the Department of Energy, on average, weatherization reduces heating bills by 32% and overall energy bills by $358 per year at current prices."

Additional Senators to sign the letter include: Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and John Sununu (R-NH)

"I hear from Mainers throughout my state that they are panicked about how they are going to heat their homes this winter and deal with the skyrocketing price of home heating oil. This is one of the greatest concerns in Maine and throughout the nation. It is critical for the Weatherization Assistance Program to be funded at a level that will help meet the growing needs of American families as they deal with the high cost of energy," said Senator Collins.

The letter was addressed to the Chairman and Ranking Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Energy, Water Development.

A text of the letter follows:

We are writing in advance of the Committee's markup of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill to urge you to increase funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

It is our understanding that the Subcommittee-approved bill funds WAP at $201.18 million, with $200 million for program grants and $1.18 million for training and technical assistance. While this funding reverses an ill-advised cut proposed in the President's budget, it is still well below what the Committee proposed last year ($240.55 million) and what was accepted in the Omnibus ($227.221 million). We urge you to increase funding for WAP in order to help address the crisis facing low-income families as they confront continually increasing energy costs.

The Weatherization Assistance Program is the government's largest residential energy conservation program, and provides important assistance to low-income families facing high energy bills. Since the program's inception, more than 5.8 million homes have been weatherized using federal, state, utility and other monies. Each of these households now has more money to spend on other necessities that it would have spent on heating and cooling an inefficient house. According to the National Association for State Community Services Programs, for every dollar spent, WAP returns $2.72 in energy and non-energy benefits over the life of the weatherized home.

The need in this area is clear; the U.S. Department of Energy found that 16.9 million households are both eligible for weatherization services and would be good candidates for the services. Soaring energy prices are sure to exacerbate this need. In its most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted that the cost of home heating oil will increase more than 41 percent from the 4th quarter of 2007 to the 4th quarter of 2008. This increase comes on top of the 162 percent increase in heating oil prices that occurred between January 2000 and March 2008. A weatherized home would help mitigate these record price increases.

For these many reasons, an increase in funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program is vital. Thank you for your consideration of this urgent request.


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