Pelosi Authorizes 'Green the Capitol' Initiative

It's time for Congress, better known for its wasted hot air and its red-blue divide, to go green, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says.

The California Democrat asked House Chief Administrative officer Daniel Beard in a letter to undertake a "green the Capitol" initiative to ensure that buildings and operations in the Capitol complex meet the most up-to-date environmental standards.

"The House of Representatives should provide leadership to the nation in providing an environmentally responsible and healthy working environment for our employees," Pelosi said in the letter also signed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and House Administration Committee Chairman Juanita Millender McDonald, D-Calif.

The Democrats asked Beard, working with Senate counterparts, the Architect of the Capitol, Capitol Police and others, to provide preliminary recommendations by April 30 and a final report by the end of June.

Beard, in an interview, said that as part of a 2005 energy bill, lawmakers already are working on a bill to cut energy costs by such measures as installing lights that automatically adjust with changes in sunlight.

He said that in addition to finding ways to make buildings more energy-efficient, they would look at business practices and employee benefits such as those encouraging the use of public transit.

Private companies have found they can reduce operating costs by 20 to 30 percent by cutting energy purchases and conservation measures, he said.

Beard's office oversees the House side of the Capitol and four House office buildings. Some 10,000 people work in the complex.

Pelosi sent her letter to Beard on Thursday.