Energy Star Could Survive, But With a Lot Less Money

July 18th, 2017 by Trey Barrineau

The House Appropriations Committee’s spending bill for 2018, which came out last week, keeps the popular Energy Star program but drastically reduces its funding, according to a report on the committee’s proposal that was released on Monday.

The 2018 spending bill would fund Energy Star at $31 million. That’s 53 percent less than 2017’s funding level of $66 million.

“The committee continues to support the Energy Star program and does not terminate the program as proposed,” the House Appropriations Committee writes in its report. “However, program adjustments or reforms may be warranted.”

The committee says Energy Star should review a 2009 agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) that reallocated roles and responsibilities between the two entities. Both have managed different aspects of the program since 1996.

Additionally, the committee says the third-party certification requirements that Energy Star began in 2011 have shifted many product reviews to outside vendors, such as the certification work that the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) performs for Energy Star’s windows, doors and skylights program. Energy Star’s budget is being slashed because “historical funding levels exceed the needs for internal product reviews,” the committee writes in its report.

In March, President Trump’s budget proposal called for Energy Star to be defunded and its functions possibly transferred to a non-governmental entity.

“We appreciate that the committee has rejected the administration’s proposal to eliminate Energy Star, but this cut would be crippling as well,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. “Energy Star is one of the most popular government programs in U.S. history and has enjoyed broad bipartisan support since it was created under President George H.W. Bush. More than 90 percent of Americans know the Energy Star brand. Meanwhile, 16,000 companies have voluntarily signed up to participate in it.”

That includes more than 300 door and window companies. According to research from the EPA, Energy Star-rated windows represent about 80 percent of the U.S. residential market.

The Energy Star cut outlined by the Appropriations Committee is part of funding reductions to the EPA that don’t match the huge ones sought by the administration. The House  bill will fund the EPA at $7.5 billion, $1.9 billion above the president’s request for 2018.

However, the bill does make trims in many areas, and it includes language about “reshaping” the agency’s workforce “by providing resources requested to offer buyouts and voluntary separation agreements to employees.”

Additionally, the bill will get rid of many regulations at the EPA. For example, it includes language authorizing the withdrawal of the Waters of the United States rule, an Obama-era regulation that was widely viewed as a burden on the construction industry because the approval process added costs and time to projects.

Energy Star’s final fate will be decided in the coming weeks as Congress works to pass a comprehensive spending bill before the end of September and avoid a government shutdown.

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