Issues & AdvocacyFederal
Architects Help Preserve Sustainability Measures in the Senate
By Andrew Goldberg, Managing Director, Government Relations & Outreach
Conventional wisdom dictates that nothing gets done in Washington these days. The CW also tells us that average citizens have no clout in the halls of Congress. But this week, AIA members and their allies on Capitol Hill proved the conventional wisdom wrong.
On Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved - on a strong bipartisan basis - legislation that promotes energy efficiency throughout the built environment. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Republican Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), was the product of an arduous process of building consensus among a wide variety of stakeholders, including the design profession. What's more, the bill is fully paid for and will not increase the deficit – two attributes that today are an absolute necessity for anything to pass on Capitol Hill.
More notable than what’s in the bill is what’s not. Despite an aggressive push by the natural gas industry, efforts to add an amendment that would repeal the 2007 federal law that sets targets for cutting and eliminating fossil fuel use from federal buildings under construction or renovation fell short. Such a provision was not included in the bill.
The reason: AIA members and their allies in the design, construction, and sustainability communities worked overtime to protect this important measure. AIA components in states represented by Senators on the committee quickly reached out to their elected officials to explain why this provision was important. Thousands of AIA members responded to action alerts to contact their Senators to ask them to stand up for sustainable design. AIA President Mickey Jacob, FAIA, authored an opinion piece in “The Hill” newspaper. And hundreds of architecture firms, from the largest in the nation to sole practitioners, joined their allies in a letter to Capitol Hill speaking up for sustainability.
In the end, the grassroots effort from thousands of voices working collectively convinced of the committee to keep that provision out of the bill.
The battle is far from over, however. The Shaheen-Portman legislation will soon go to the Senate floor. There, some Senators may still offer an amendment to repeal the 2030 targets. Without continued advocacy by architects and their allies who support sustainable design, it is entirely possible that the 2007 law could be repealed. Sustainability advocates may have won “Round One” this week, but the battle continues.
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