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Legislation & Public Policy Issues in Preservation     


Legislation & Public Policy Issues in Preservation
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House Energy and Commerce Approves Climate Change Bill with Historic Preservation Boost
Historic Preservation Blog from PreservationDirectory.com - The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Department of Public Policy, Historic Preservation, House of Representatives, Climate Change Bill, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Contributed By: The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Department of Public Policy
Email The Author: pr@nthp.org
Website: http://www.nthp.org

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a climate change bill (HR 2454) after a week-long markup that includes a 120 percent boost for incentives to retrofit historic structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) agreed to hold at least one day of hearings after the Memorial Day recess on the bill’s provisions to cap greenhouse gases and set up a market-based program for businesses to buy and sell emission allowances as they work to meet the agreed-upon cap limits. As approved by the committee, the bill would do the following:

  • Cap emissions at 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020, 42 percent below in 2030 and 83 percent below in 2050. A company could buy pollution allowances from another business in lieu of meeting its obligation to reduce emissions.
  • Require the government to sell about 15 percent of these allowances at an auction and distribute the rest for free. A much greater percentage would be auctioned in future decades.
  • Require 15 percent of the nation’s electricity to come from renewable sources including wind, solar, biomass and geothermal by 2020. An additional 5 percent in energy savings would have to come through greater efficiency. States could petition to meet a standard for 12 percent renewable use and 8 percent from efficiency.

While preservationists were pleased the bill includes expanded incentives for retrofitting historic structures, there is still concern that the House bill largely skirts the issue of how the federal government could site transmission lines to deliver renewable energy. However, Waxman said he would work on an amendment for when the bill reaches the House floor and stated “that we must have a transmission provision in this legislation.” To date, Waxman was relying on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to provide the provisions for siting new transmission corridors, which have raised thorny issues about federal eminent domain and agency jurisdictional authority when states reject corridor siting decisions. The National Trust opposes federal efforts to override State objects to corridor siting decisions which may not take into full account historic and cultural resources on public and private lands.

However, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee did not complete its mark up a draft renewable energy bill on Thursday that would help settle the transmission siting issues necessary to meet the requirement in the House bill that 15 percent of the nation’s power come from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Instead of moving forward with the full mark up, Energy and Natural Resources Committee chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) announced that he had reached an agreement with Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), who all opposed the renewable energy title out of concern that their states could not generate enough renewable power to meet the 15% mandate. However, Lincoln finally agreed to support the measure, as did Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) whose state has the third-largest wind power generation capacity in the country and stands to emerge as a big winner if the legislation is passed.

Although the Senate Energy Committee did not complete the full mark up of the draft renewable title, it did take up an amendment by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) that proposed striking the entire renewable title out of the bill, which was rejected by a vote of 9-13. To date, more than 50 amendments have been filed which will be reviewed by committee staff before the next markup after the Memorial Day recess. The Trust is working with Energy Committee staff and several committee members to try to get the 120 percent historic boost for retrofitting historic structures (as approved in the House bill) included in the state retrofit grant program under the building title of Senate bill before the committee’s next markup.


Keywords: The National Trust for Historic Preservation's Department of Public Policy, Historic Preservation, House of Representatives, Climate Change Bill, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Posted: May 25, 2009
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Unless noted, the thoughts and opinions expressed in the article are solely that of the
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