As energy prices continue to soar, green building has emerged as a frequent topic of debate on Capitol Hill. At least 29 bills that promote energy efficiency and environmental quality in buildings have been introduced in Congress since January 2005. But all are still pending and any that do not pass by the time Congress adjourns in October will have to be reintroduced next year.
Kara Rinaldi, director of policy at the Alliance to Save Energy, says rising energy prices and growing concerns about global warming have greatly advanced the green building movement in Congress. "All of those things combined make for a prime opportunity to introduce this type of legislation," she says.
Advocates of green building legislation hope that some bills will make it through Congress. Carol Werner, exec-utive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, says there has been a strong push for a few green bills in recent weeks. "We are running short on legislative days, but the lead sponsors of a few of these bills are hopeful that they can make a good run for it and get these to the floor," she says.
Congress seems interested in building green but probably lacks time to move a bill this year.
In late June, Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) introduced the High Performance Green Buildings Act of 2006, which would develop the use of high-performance green building standards in federal facilities. The bill calls for the establishment of an Office of Green Building Performance within the General Services Administration. The bill, which is currently in the Senate committee on environment and public works, has 10 sponsors from both sides of the aisle.
On the House side, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) in June introduced the Energy Research, Development, Demonstration and Commercial Application Act of 2006. The bill includes provisions to provide grants to offset the cost of designing and modeling energy-efficient new buildings and renovation projects. The bill is currently in the House committee on science. It has 15 Republican co-sponsors and one Democrat co-sponsor, Al Green of Texas.
Despite those actions, Bill Prindle, deputy director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, does not think any green building bills will make it through by the end of the year.
"I don�t see any of those bills having legs," he said. "There's no energy legislation that�s likely to pass this year. Time is running out and the Senate and House have different ways of seeing the issues. I don't know that they'll come to any agreement on anything."
Rinaldi agrees that new green building legislation will have to wait until next year to move through Congress. But she hopes that the movement will continue to gain support.
"There are a number of priorities [in Congress] with the short session that will make it difficult for these to move forward this year," says Rinaldi. "It's not a lack of interest at this point. It�s more a lack of time."