One June 26th, the U.S. House of Representatives, by a mere seven votes, passed H.R. 2454, American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The bill had almost 1,000 pages, and extensive changes were drawn up in a 300-page manager’s amendment!
The proposed legislation has drawn criticism from most Republicans while being sponsored and supported by Democrats. Sponsored by Henry Waxman (D) of California and Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, HR 2454 has further sharpened party lines, although several Republicans had previously urged passage of climate legislation, and eight actually voted for the bill. Moreover, both citizens and industry seem to generally support the concept of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependency on foreign oil by encouraging alternative energy sources.
The bill sets a cap on emissions of greenhouse gases, with 2006 levels being the benchmark. It aims for a 17% reduction by 2020 and 80% by 2050 using a system of permits and allowances.
In order for companies to release greenhouse gas, they must have an allowance to do so. The companies can buy and sell these allowances, which reduce over time. . .thus reaching the 80% reduction goal in 2050. But what’s in the bill? How does it affect each of us in our daily lives if it passes the Senate? What compromises are being worked out behind closed doors?
The bill creates a “National Energy Code” either by designating the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as the residential code OR by assigning the Department of Energy to draft a new energy code. If the IECC reaches its goal of 30% increase in residential energy efficiency over 2006 levels by 2012, it will become the standard national energy code. For it to remain the standard, it must reach 50% increased efficiency over 2006 by 2015. The DOE will have authority to pass judgment on whether (or not) the new codes reach the targeted efficiency goal. The bill legislates similar requirements for commercial construction, referencing the ASHRAE 90.1 standard.
That would seem to strongly encourage the IECC Committee and the ICC Membership to pass proposals that meet the DOE objective.
The goal of the Obama administration and congressional leadership is to pass the legislation before the U.N. Climate Conference scheduled for Copenhagen in December. The bill will likely be discussed after September, but the outcome is still very much in doubt in the Senate, with significant opposition based on the impact on states. Senate leadership believes there is insufficient support for the bill in its present state.
ICC’s vice president for federal affairs, David Karmol, says that the Senate legislation that deals with building energy efficiency is much better in respecting the current code development process, and the right of local jurisdictions to adopt and enforce its own building codes. According to Karmol, the provision in the House bill that requires the DOE to enforce a national energy code at the local level is not in the Senate legislation and is not expected to be a part of the final bill, if a bill does in fact pass in the Senate.