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Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act, 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. TONKO. Madam Chair, first I want to thank my colleagues, Representative Bishop, Representative Hirono, and Representative Welch, for offering this amendment with me.

Madam Chair, the Tonko-Bishop-Hirono-Welch amendment is simple and straightforward. It increases funding for two important State energy efficiency programs in the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accounts at the Department of Energy.

The amendment would increase spending for the Weatherization Assistance Program. Weatherization is the largest residential efficiency program in our Nation. Weatherization reduces energy costs for low-income families and the elderly and disabled. It creates jobs, invests in local businesses, and advances technology--state-of-the-art technology. Weatherizing homes under this program saves $437 in annual utility bills for the average homeowner. These energy savings insulate families from rising energy costs by permanently lowering household energy demand for both heating and cooling.

Our amendment also restores funding to the State Energy Program, or SEP. SEP is the only cost-shared program administered by the United States Department of Energy that provides resources directly to the States to support their efforts in energy efficiency. This includes 56 State and territory energy offices. And, according to a study by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, for every dollar in Federal SEP funds we have 1.03 million source Btus, along with the cost savings of $7.22, and a leveraging of $10.71 on that same very dollar.

Madam Chair, these programs traditionally have received strong bipartisan support. Saving money by saving energy is good--good for everyone.

The bill's deep cuts in weatherization programs from recent years' allocations is so-called ``justified'' in the report by the claim that there are large amounts of unspent funds from previous appropriations, including those from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ARRA.

Well, the majority of these funds have, in fact, been allocated, and I understand they will be completely spent by April 1 of next year, the beginning of the Weatherization Program year for States. So that means there will be little to nothing available by the time that FY13 funds get to these States.

The ARRA money and the money from fiscal year 2011 has been obligated in contracts to subgrantees. In addition to the cuts in weatherization in this bill, the other source of Federal funds for this program, 10 percent of LIHEAP funds, is also reduced due to the reductions in funding for that program.

We're going in the wrong direction. If someone can make the case that we have fully exploited all of our opportunities in weatherization or can demonstrate that we have done all that we can to make citizens' homes and businesses energy efficient, then winding down the program would perhaps be reasonable. But we are a long way from achieving that goal.

Energy we do not have to use is, in fact, the cheapest energy available to us. We need to be doing much more in efficiency, not less. Efficiency should be our fuel of choice.

This bill is skewed to reinforce our existing energy use patterns. It continues outsized investments in the established energy industries that have received generous Federal support for nearly a century while renewable energy technologies are shortchanged.

We should be lending Federal assistance where it is most needed: to individual citizens and to developing industries that are struggling to bring new energy technologies forward, such as solar, wind, and geothermal. The petroleum industry has the means to support its own research.

Madam Chair, we are likely to be reliant on fossil fuels for quite some time, and we should use these fuels wisely. An all-of-the-above strategy must include energy efficiency, and we should support States' efforts to encourage the adoption of new energy technologies and increase energy efficiency.

Let's continue our history of bipartisan support for programs that save money, create jobs, and improve our energy security. Weatherization and SEP are such programs worthy of our support. I urge adoption of this amendment.

With that, Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.


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