Democrats Pledge to Green the U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC (April 19, 2007)- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today said Democrats would start to operate the House buildings “in a carbon neutral manner” at the earliest possible date with a deadline of the end of this Congress in late 2008 or early 2009.

Pelosi was joined this afternoon by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in accepting a report by the Chief Administrative Officer of the House Daniel Beard on efforts that would reduce the environmental impacts associated with the operations of the House building complex.
“The environmental challenges we face are as local as our neighborhoods and as global as our planet,”Pelosi said. “The House must lead by example and it is time for Congress to act on its own carbon footprint.
The preliminary report on the “Green the Capitol Initiative” was presented by Beard in response to a March 1 letter by House Democratic leaders requesting the development of such an initiative.
The preliminary plan calls for shifting the House and its three office buildings to 100 percent renewable energy and improving energy efficiency.
By implementing this recommendation, the House will eliminate 57,000 tons of the total greenhouse gas emissions annually, or the equivalent of removing 11,000 cars from the roads.
The cost of electric power generated from renewable sources can be up to 20 percent more than power generated from traditional sources. This increase in cost will be offset over the long run by energy conservation actions, Beard said.
To save money and energy, Beard recommends that 2,000 desk lamps in the House office buildings be immediately converted to compact fluorescent lamps, CFL, and convert the remaining 10,000 desk lamps to CFLs within six months.
Replacing 12,000 CFLs is the equivalent to removing 255 cars from the road, and it will yield a $245,000 savings in electric power costs to the House per year, Beard said. “Standard incandescent bulbs consume four times the energy of compact fluorescents and it is time for the House to eliminate their use,” he said.
The overhead House ceiling lights should be converted to high efficiency lighting and controls to reduce lighting energy from these sources by as much as 50 percent. This action will eliminate 7,130 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is equivalent to 1,340 cars.
Under the new plan, the House will purchase only energy efficient Energy Star products where available, and purchase office equipment that is certified using the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool system. EPEAT certified electronic devices are low in heavy metals and high in recycled plastic content.
The House will give priority to the purchase of climate neutral products that offset the life cycle contribution of greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, Beard said, the House should purchase only adhesive, sealants, paints, coating, and carpets that emit very low quantities of volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds are major components affecting indoor air quality and they contribute to climate change.
The House will buy only furnishings that contain recycled products or wood certified as sustainable by the Sustainable Forests Initiative, the Forest Stewardship Council or similar programs under the new plan.
“Implementing this recommendation will make a small contribution toward insuring biodiverse forests for future generations,” Beard said.
The Democratic leadership will direct the Architect of the Capitol to finalize the installation of an ethanol-85 tank and pump for the use of official vehicles within the next six months.
“I commend the CAO on this thoughtful preliminary report on how the House can take steps to operate in a sustainable manner that is more sensitive to the environment,” said Majority Leader Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat.
“Improving energy efficiency is the most effective first step that any organization can take to make a positive effect on the world we live in and that we leave to our children and grandchildren,” he said.
Beard also suggests that a “Green Expo” be held for House offices to demonstrate the latest in green products or services available to offices from commercial vendors.
He recommends that a sustainability education program be established for House employees providing guidance on how employees can make a contribution to impacting climate change and sustainability at home and in the work place.
The House should establish a “Green Revolving Fund,” said Beard, where revenues received from various sources will be placed in a revolving fund to be used to undertake energy and water conservation initiatives that offset greenhouse gas emissions.
“Implementing these important first steps signal we are not only doing the right thing, but we are taking steps that will eventually save money,” said Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat. “Through these recommendations we will show not only that these actions are environmentally beneficial, but are fiscally sound.”
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