Pelosi’s Energy Savings Program Evaporates

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House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi's four-year effort to "Green the Capitol" is officially no-more, having been dumped into an existing energy-savings program on the Hill in a move that Republicans say will save more money, eliminate redundancy and promote collaboration.

In response, some Democrats are crying foul, saying the move reflects the low priority that energy savings is for Republicans.

The House Chief Administrative Office announced Thursday that the Architect of the Capitol's Office will take over the functions of the program that expanded House recycling and led to thousands of energy-efficient light bulbs being installed on the Hill.

"Saving energy saves money and consolidating our sustainability programs helps save taxpayer dollars by improving efficiencies and allows us to make smart and sound investments throughout the Capitol complex," Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers said in a statement.

"This greatly improves our return on investment in congressional facilities by continuing to include sustainability in our long-range project planning," he said.

But Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for the Democrats on the House Administration Committee, expressed little confidence in the architect's sustainability efforts and said the move sends a "clear message" about the GOP-led House's "lack of commitment to environmentally responsible policies."

"This move should not be a surprise to any of us," he said. "Rather than focusing on creating jobs and helping to stimulate the economy, one of the first decisions made by this majority was to reintroduce polystyrene -- a known environmental pollutant -- to House food service facilities."

Salley Wood, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the House Administration Committee, told that the AOC "has demonstrated beyond a doubt that they're entirely best suited to handle this."

Pelosi launched the program in 2007 when she was speaker of the House. The program sought to reduce energy use by the House by 50 percent over 10 years and reduce the institution's carbon footprint.

But Wood said that it never made sense for Pelosi to launch the program when the AOC began its own initiative in 2005 under a federal mandate. Instead, Pelosi should have allowed AOC to execute her effort, Wood said, adding that her effort was "duplicative" and included "projects that were wasteful."

The total cost of Pelosi's program isn't known but Wood said the operating costs alone ranged from $650,000 to $2.4 million per year. That doesn't include the cost of among other things outside contractors, the AOC purchasing and installing energy efficient equipment, and a composting program that cost taxpayers $475,000 a year before Republicans killed it in January for its inefficiency.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the program has enabled the House to save $3.2 million per year and save as much as $50 million over a decade through computer server consolidation, building upgrades, efficient lighting and other efforts.

"While the initiative has enjoyed bipartisan participation and models the efforts taken by many in the private sector, many Republican members have chosen to demagogue the issue," Hammill said. "The Green the Capitol initiative has been a successful sustainability effort that has saved taxpayer money, cut energy usage and reduced waste."

Since 2008, the House has reduced its carbon footprint by 74 percent under the program and has begun purchasing wind energy to meet all electricity needs and burns only natural gas at the Capitol Power Plant, Hammill said.

Ayers has worked closely with Pelosi's program to take “bold steps to apply the progress made by the House to the entire Capitol complex," Hammill said.

"The architect should continue to implement measures in the most aggressive manner possible including the 50 percent energy reduction goal for the House of Representatives," he said.