A blower door test is one of the many diagnostic features employed by our program to ensure the highest energy savings possible for those we serve.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Weatherization Assistance Program Legislative Update

You may remember that the WAP was slated to receive another significant cut in the 2008 President’s Budget. The Administration asked for $144 million in WAP funds – a $98 million (or 41 percent) reduction from 2006. The House rejected this lower funding request and passed their 2008 Energy and Water bill with $242.5 million in WAP funds. The Senate Appropriations Committee also passed their version of the Energy and Water bill establishing a WAP funding level of $245 million for 2008 - although this bill has not been sent to the Senate floor for a vote.

Since no bill has been passed by the Senate, no Joint Conference work can occur to resolve differences in the two versions. And of course no bill can be sent to the President for signature.
Because Congress was unable to pass 10 of the 11 Appropriations bills by the September 30th deadline, a Continuing Resolution was passed through November 15th. This is a stopgap measure put in place to keep government operating until either the spending bills or an Omnibus bill can be passed by Congress and sent to the President for signature. Here's where we are at this time:

o It does not appear that the Energy and Water Appropriations bill will pass the Senate floor and a Joint Conference Committee be established before the November 15th deadline. In fact, it is unlikely that any bills will pass before that time, meaning that another Continuing Resolution will need to be passed by Congress to carry government - probably until after the Christmas recess. This means that WAP advance funding may not be available as was originally planned for in the bill. It also means that any funds made available would not exceed last year's level of $204 million and could be less since no new funding levels have been established.

o It is unlikely at this time that a stand alone Energy and Water bill will be passed by Congress. It is more likely that the Energy and Water bill will be included in a large Omnibus bill or one of two or three "MiniBus" bills, lumping our bill with several other spending bills. The timing on passage of these bills is again after Christmas recess.

Regardless of the mechanism, it is probable that WAP funding will see an increase to either the House or Senate level or a compromise between the two.

So what does all this mean? If Congress passes a stand alone bill and it is signed by the President, WAP gets the funding agreed to in Joint Conference.

If an Omnibus is passed including the Energy and Water Bill, WAP receives the funds agreed to by those who work on the Omnibus (probably a compromise between the House and Senate level). If a Continuing resolution is passed like normal, WAP will likely receive last year's funding since funding usually is equal to the lower of the House level, the Senate level or last year's funding. If a Continuing Resolution is passed like last year, DOE will set the limit on funding those programs like WAP without a line item.

This is how WAP received a $36 million reduction even though Congress wanted the Program funded at higher levels.

On a related matter, there is still pending legislation reauthorizing the WAP at much higher funding levels and including three projects that would be added to the Program's portfolio -

1. The Senate has passed an Energy Efficiency Block Grant Program as part of their H.R. 6 Energy Bill of 2007 passed in July. The House has introduced a version of the Block Grant as part of their version of the 2007 Energy Bill. In both cases, the grant program will allow the Secretary of DOE to make direct grants to cities and communities across America to perform a variety of energy efficiency initiatives including WAP according to the House version.

2. The House version contains a new project in the reauthorization language establishing a Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers Grant. This program provides for the Secretary to set aside up to 2 percent of the annual WAP appropriations to fund a renewable energy application project for low-and moderate income families. The grant activity cannot commence until Congress provides WAP with appropriations in excess of $275 million and the grants will still be managed through the states for fiscal oversight and reporting.

3. The House Energy Bill also includes an "Alternate Delivery System Pilot Projects." The amendment allows the Department’s ability to move WAP funds away from the formula grant and provide them to other organizations outside of our network. Again this activity is limited to a percentage of the award over $275 million.

As always, we will keep you informed as we learn more.

No comments: