After three failed attempts in Congress, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) reintroduced their Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (more commonly known as the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill) to the Senate today. First presented in 2011, the legislation proposes strengthening building codes for residential and commercial buildings, supports a training program for workers in construction, and directs the U.S. Department of Energy to partner with manufacturers in research of new technologies. It also includes an amendment that is dividing industry stakeholders—one that repeals Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the federal government's 2030 fossil fuel target reduction mandate.

Through Section 433, the federal government—the single largest energy consumer in the country—aims to reduce its energy consumption per gross square foot in its new and renovated buildings incrementally each year until 2030, when a 100-percent reduction in fossil fuel use, based on a 2003 baseline, is targeted. The bill failed in Congress in 2011, 2013, and 2014 in part due to divided industry responses over the controversial amendment and political roadblocks.

According to Shaheen's office, a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that by 2030, this bill will create more than 190,000 jobs, save consumers $16.2 billion a year, and cut carbon dioxide emissions and other air pollutants by the equivalent of taking 22 million cars off the road.

AIA director of federal relations Christina Finkenhofer says that while the bill contains several valuable clauses, the repeal of the 2030 targets outweighs the benefits and the legislation would ultimately do more harm than good. “The repeal is counterintuitive,” she says.

The legislation is one of the big issues discussed at the 2015 AIA Grassroots Leadership and Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., last week where attendees held meetings on Capitol Hill. Finkenhofer says that the AIA encouraged conference attendees to discuss their opposition to the repeal of the 2030 goals with their Congressional representatives. The AIA’s key legislative priorities for 2015—what the Institute calls the "year of the advocate"—include backing the federal 2030 targets, passing consensus energy efficiency legislation, and promoting design excellence across all federal agencies.

Today, the AIA released the following statement about the legislation on behalf of AIA President Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA:

“It doesn't make sense that a bill touted to encourage energy conservation throughout the economy would eliminate a federal requirement that requires new and newly renovated federal buildings to do just that.

“Repealing Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is simply bad public policy. It eliminates the Federal Government from being able to lead by example worldwide when it comes to reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“Our more than 85,000 member architects stand ready to work with the bill’s authors to support energy conservation legislation that has a meaningful impact. But the AIA, along with 1,000 other companies that opposed this repeal in the last session of Congress, cannot support this bill in its current form.”

Homepage image used via a Creative Commons License with Flickr user KP Tripathi.