Shaheen, Coons, Collins and Reed Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Provide Certainty to State Energy Assistance Programs
(Washington, DC) – This week, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced bipartisan legislation to encourage state-driven energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives that reduce energy costs for low-income households, spur private sector energy innovation and improve emergency planning and response. The Investing in State Energy Act, S.1713, would prevent undue delay in distributing grants through the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the State Energy Program (SEP) to state agencies and local partners that implement energy initiatives.
“Both the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and State Energy Program (SEP) are essential to encourage local clean energy projects and to help Granite State families, who are most vulnerable to high energy costs, save money,” said Shaheen. “The Department of Energy’s recent departure in promptly issuing the full award of these funds to states will hinder implementation of high-impact energy projects and ultimately places a financial burden on families and businesses that rely on the energy savings WAP and SEP provide. The Investing in State Energy Act will ensure critical investments continue to be made in these programs, which are among the most efficient and cost-effective ways to conserve energy and create jobs. Simply put, this bipartisan legislation will encourage local investments that are good for the environment, good for the economy and good for New Hampshire communities.”
“This important bill recognizes that funds directed by Congress for the low-income Weatherization Program and the State Energy Program should be released to the states by the Department of Energy promptly,” said David Terry, the Executive Director of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO). “When Congress has spoken and appropriations are enacted, the Executive Branch should release these dollars immediately. The funds help real people every day, whether in their homes or businesses. Senator Shaheen, Senator Collins, Senator Reed and Senator Coons are pushing this common-sense, bipartisan bill to help every energy consumer in the United States.”
“The Weatherization Program provides funding which allows the five community action agencies (CAPs) in New Hampshire to perform energy efficiency improvements to the homes of low income individuals in the state,” said John Manning, CEO of Southwestern Community Services, Inc., as well as the President of the NH Community Action Association. “These funds provide a core base of funding, which the CAPs are able to leverage with other sources of funds, including support from the state utilities’ CORE Program. In addition to basic weatherization work, this program is able to do basic healthy home repairs, as well as life safety issues for the residents. This work is done by both work crews employed by the CAPs as well as a large number of outside contractors. The continued funding of this program supports a large number of skilled jobs in the state. Knowing that the funding for this program is in place, and will be received in a timely manner, is critical to the CAPs ability to keep this program operating without interruption.”
For more than 40 years, the Department of Energy's (DOE) assistance programs, WAP and SEP, have provided technical and financial assistance to states, tribal governments and U.S. territories to encourage the adoption of clean energy and energy efficiency practices and technologies.
The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables families, seniors, veterans and individuals with disabilities to improve the energy efficiency of their homes, freeing up limited resources for other essentials like food and medicine. The State Energy Program (SEP) provides cost-shared resources directly to the states for allocations by the governor-designated State Energy Office to support energy projects, such as energy emergency planning and response, private sector innovation in clean energy and state-driven energy infrastructure modernization.
Both WAP and SEP were proposed to be eliminated in President Trump’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18). While Congress has already appropriated FY17 funds, DOE is issuing WAP awards to states and other grantees only in monthly disbursements, straying from past years’ practice of providing the full grant amount prior to the start of the states’ program year. The Investing in State Energy Act would direct DOE to distribute the full annual award amount of WAP and SEP funds to states, tribes and other direct grantees no later than 60 days after funds are appropriated by Congress. By establishing these mandatory deadlines, the Investing in State Energy Act encourages local high-impact projects that serve families in need and ensures that states continue to receive critical resources to meet their energy goals.