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Pass Portman-Shaheen to Improve Energy Policy

When lawmakers return to a divided Washington next month, they’ll have plenty to discuss.

There’s the pending U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal, a much-needed Qualified Improvement Property tax fix, a transportation spending measure to consider, and the 2020 federal budget to enact. Clearly, a lot of legislative business has been left for Congress to work out this autumn.

Lawmakers could get off to a good start by finally passing S. 2137, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act. Also known as Portman-Shaheen, this measure would demonstrate bipartisan cooperation and improve the physical environment by reducing energy and water use.

Several years ago, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire drafted a bill aimed at improving energy efficiency in buildings, industrial facilities and throughout the federal government. Encouraging the government to cut down on energy use would lead to big savings as the U.S. Department of Energy found that the federal government is the largest single energy consumer in the country. NAIOP was an early backer of the measure, and support for the proposal has been building ever since.

This year, Sens. Portman and Shaheen have reintroduced the measure as the “Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2019.” It’s a bipartisan measure co-sponsored by two additional Republican senators and five additional Democratic senators.

The bill facilitates the creation of model building energy codes, or “example standards,” for use by state and local governments. Importantly, these codes would take costs into consideration, including return-on-investment analysis and other economic realities, in setting energy reduction targets. And rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, the bill ensures flexibility within differing climate regions to meet national efficiency goals.

This latest iteration of Portman-Shaheen also takes steps to improve the data used by the Environmental Protection Agency in administering its Energy Star program. Because of the vast number of developers and property owners who rely on the program, ensuring the quality and integrity of its underlying dataset is critical.

The bill encourages building owners and operators to use energy efficiency technologies that are already on the market and can be easily deployed. Doing so should protect the environment by reducing emissions, while generating private sector jobs installing the technology.

“This bill is a win-win, creating new jobs and protecting our environment—all without a single new tax or mandate,” Sen. Portman said. “It would reduce our carbon emissions and give our workers in Ohio and around the country a competitive advantage by making our plants and buildings more energy efficient. It’s good news for the taxpayer, too, because it would make the federal government practice what it preaches and use energy more efficiently.”

Sen. Shaheen added, “This bill provides a path forward to making significant progress on reducing carbon emissions in order to address climate change. It’s a win for jobs, consumers and the environment.”

NAIOP supports efforts to increase the energy efficiency of commercial buildings. That should only be done, though, in ways that makes economic sense for developers, owners and investors. That means measures that are developed subject to the federal rule-making process, thereby allowing for industry input. Standards must also include technical feasibility and reasonable payback periods for energy efficient investment.

Portman-Shaheen meets all those requirements. “This legislation ensures that market realities are taken into account as efficiency targets are developed, in alignment with the economics inherent in the commercial real estate industry,” wrote NAIOP President and CEO Thomas J. Bisacquino in the association’s letter supporting the bill. “We feel strongly that this approach is the best way for the federal government to promote energy efficiency in the built environment.”

The bill has widespread support throughout the commercial real estate industry and the public sector. Lawmakers should agree to pass the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act quickly.

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