WASHINGTON, D.C. — For the fourth time, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is co-sponsoring legislation that aims to make building, manufacturing and the federal government more energy efficient.
In a press conference last month, Portman and New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen introduced the latest version of the “Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act.”
While Congress is home for August recess, Spectrum Washington reporter Taylor Popielarz is taking a closer look at some of the legislation Ohio’s members are currently working on.
At the July press conference, Shaheen joked that Portman had black hair when they introduced the first version of this energy efficiency bill back in 2011.
But eight years and several bumps in the road later — a previous version stalled in the House after passing the Senate with over 80 votes — they’re hoping what has always been a bipartisan bill will now have enough oomf to actually become law.
“Even in a partisan town like this, the environment and particularly climate change is even more partisan, and yet this legislation defies that because, I think, we’ve kept it non-partisan from the start, but also because it does something really important,” Portman said. “It improves the environment but also improves the economy. It’s the sweet spot.”
The legislation would change national building codes to make new homes and commercial buildings more energy efficient, and create a grant program to help builders meet those changes.
It would also incentivize manufacturers using more energy efficient equipment.
And it would require the federal government, which is the largest energy user in the country, to adopt energy savings and efficiency goals.
Portman said the building code changes alone are estimated to save $13 billion per year — and be equivalent to taking 11 million cars off the road within 15 years.
In an interview on July 18, Spectrum News asked the head of the Environmental Protection Agency what he thought of Portman’s latest attempt at this legislation.
“He’s worked on this a number of years,” Administrator Andrew Wheeler said. “It makes a lot of progress on the energy efficiency side.”
Wheeler added: “Since most of the provisions of the bill are outside of the EPA’s jurisdiction, I’m not at liberty to say whether or not the administration supports the bill or not. I believe it was just reintroduced this week and we’re certainly taking a look at it.”
So far, the Senate version of the bill only has nine senators on board and the House version has just three — but both versions have bipartisan support.
The Alliance to Save Energy said the bill is “a better-than-ever plan to accelerate energy efficiency.”
But the National Association of Home Builders said the legislation “would harm housing affordability by imposing overly costly and aggressive energy efficiency requirements.”