Congressman Frank Pallone
Photography: Carl Bower Congressman Frank Pallone

Congressman Frank Pallone, Democrat from the Sixth Congressional District of New Jersey, thinks architects do a great job getting out their message in Congress. He’d just like to see more of them up on Capitol Hill doing just that.

“I’ve known for years that architects have always been at the forefront of environmental concerns,” says Pallone, a Long Branch, New Jersey native. “It’s important that, as a group, you continue your efforts to communicate the importance of advancing low-carbon building technologies and building efficiency to both Congress and the public.”

Pallone is the ranking Democrat on the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over issues pertaining to energy, environment, healthcare, commerce, and telecommunications. As such, Pallone has taken a leading role in opposing efforts by special interests to repeal Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), which sets targets for reductions in fossil fuel use in federal buildings by the year 2030. Architects and the AIA campaigned long and hard to get EISA passed; it was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007.

“What I have found, when it comes to environmental concerns, is that architects have always been out front in trying to be the good actor—and it’s no surprise to me that you have this 2030 Challenge, and that you’re trying to address global climate change issues or reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Pallone says. “The reality is, you’ve played a role in advancing more sustainable policies—and this is a good example.”

Pallone, at least, recognizes that architects have a lot to say in the halls of Congress.

“In terms of buildings, residential and commercial buildings account for roughly 41 percent of the energy consumed in the United States,” he says. “There’s no question we need to heat our homes and cool our homes and light our workplaces more efficiently with cleaner energy sources. And, of course, the U.S. federal government is the largest building owner, so federal buildings are crucial to reducing carbon emissions.

“That’s where policies like the fossil fuel reduction requirement, Section 433, come in. It ensures that the federal government at least leads by example in transitioning to less polluted buildings.”

Despite Pallone’s opposition, the House voted to repeal the 2030 targets in December when it passed the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015. However, Pallone is confident the repeal won’t soon become law, as the Senate, at press time, continues to be bogged down on its energy bill. And President Barack Obama has promised to veto the House bill that contains the repeal.

Throughout his tenure in Congress, Pallone’s legislative accomplishments have been geared to the protection and restoration of environmental resources. A year ago, Pallone was sworn in for his 14th Congressional term representing a New Jersey district that covers most of Middlesex County as well as the oceanfront areas of Monmouth County. These areas were hit particularly hard by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“In the aftermath of Sandy, in my district we’ve been looking at the telecommunications infrastructure, the transmission lines of electricity; we’ve been looking at plans for flood control projects with the Army Corps [of Engineers],” Pallone says. “All these things are necessary to make our infrastructure more resilient in the event of another storm.”

Looking forward—and past the November elections—Pallone plans to revive the energy bill in the House and pass a truly bipartisan piece of legislation: “My hope is that we revisit this bill so it includes some energy infrastructure initiatives in it. One of my major priorities is that we try to revisit this whole energy package and include some major initiatives with regard to energy infrastructure: repair, replace, and resiliency.”