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.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Congratulations to Senator Sanders (I-VT), the Northeast Midwest Senate Energy Coalition, NCAF, and all those who worked on getting this amendment included in the 2007 Supplemental Bill passed by the Senate. The amendment passed on a voice vote.

As you may already know, the President has made several public statements regarding his willingness to veto this Bill until it is stripped of all special interest funding and the deadline for troop withdrawal from Iraq. Whether he will actual back up his rhetoric with a veto of the Bill remains anybody's guess. And it is difficult to predict whether the House and Senate have enough votes to override his veto, if he uses it - although many of the political pundits don't believe the votes are there in either Chamber.

Regardless, even if the bill never becomes a law, this is still terrific news for the Program. It further demonstrates the will of Congress to fund our Weatherization efforts on behalf of low-income families at levels far above those being proposed by the Administration. Thank you Senator Sanders for believing in us.

Bob Adams

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sanders Amendment to the Supplemental Approved

We have just learned that the supplemental amendment offered by Senator Sanders (I-VT) asking DOE to restore cuts in the WAP has been approved by the Senate in the amount of $25 million, potentially bringing WAP funding for FY07 to $229.5 million.

The amendment was part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, which will now face joint conference and then Presidential approval. We will keep you posted as new developments arise.

We are truly grateful to Senators Sanders, Reed, Bingaman, Sununu, Clinton, Menendez, Wyden, Dodd and Harkin for their recognition and support of this successful program which had countless benefits for both the enviroment and community. With champions such as these, we can rest assured the Program will survive these tumultuous times.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

An Open Invitation

The material posted here is not and should not be a one-sided dialogue. Each time our organization and its members speak out against actions that are potentially harmful to the Program, it is not simply to hear our own voices echo back.

At times the only solution to strained relationships and a breakdown of communications is to offer a frank and clear assessment of where one stands. Each statement we make, each concern we address, is an open invitation to begin a productive discussion with all parties concerned.

It is in this spirit that we invite Mr. Karsner, and any other member of the Department of Energy to respond to our criticisms and concerns whether it be through our newsletter, listserv, or this blog.

We will gladly accept and publish any response, counter-argument, or defense offered. Once this is achieved, and both parties have had the opportunity to speak with absolute candor, we will be able to move forward and make the WAP stronger than ever before.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Karsner's Comments on the WAP

It is unfortunate that DOE's Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alexander Karsner, is unaware of the workings of the programs he's responsible for managing.

If he did, he'd know that the Weatherization Program is anything but a "welfare" program. The WAP provides a vast array of state of the art energy efficiency services to dwellings occupied by families who are less fortunate than he is. But the thousands of dedicated men and women who provide these services don't provide a giveaway as intimated by Mr. Karsner.

Rather, they weatherize "houses". And those homes are proven to conserve energy and save money for those families for years after the crews and contractors complete their work.

Weatherization is an investment - not a hand out. And he should know that. But in his testimony in front of the House earlier in the week, Mr Karsner touched off a firestorm when he defended DOE's reduction of 2008 weatherization program funding to $144 million.

He said weatherization is a "poverty alleviation program," and not the type of applied research that constitutes the bulk of the department's energy efficiency programs.

Weatherization itself "is certainly worthy," said Karsner, but it really amounts to a welfare program that "must constantly compete" for federal dollars with research programs that have a higher return on the nation's energy balance.

Fortunately, Representative Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) jumped in - "When we help industry with its needs, is it welfare?" he asked Karsner.

Though Karsner asserted there is no corporate welfare in his portion of the budget and defended his position by saying that the weatherization program is "oddly lodged in this portfolio," Serrano shot back that use of the term "welfare" was demeaning to the weatherization program."This country is not doing a favor to anyone" by providing weatherization assistance, he said. The program "is not a good deed. It is an essential need the country has to provide."

"We have to be careful how we use words," Serrano said.Mr. Karsner should be more careful about how he describes the Program in public.

Maybe he should receive a briefing about the Weatherization Program or actually visit a home being weatherized before he makes other unwise and inaccurate statements about something he should already know.

What do you think?

Robert Adams is the director of WAP Services for the National Association for State Community Services Programs, the trade association representing the states in matters relating to several low-income programs including the Weatherization Assistance Program.

Monday, March 19, 2007

'07 DOE Operating Plan

Based upon the 2007 Spend Plan for the Department of Energy, Weatherization will be funded at $204.5 million - $200 million in grant activity and $4.5 million in DOE Training and Technical Assistance activity. The State Energy Program will be funded at $49.5 million.

For more information, visit http://www.energy.gov/media/FY2007OperatingPlanForDOE.pdf

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Legislative Update

2007 Budget

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) was slated to receive a significant cut in the 2007 President's Budget. The Administration asked for $164.2 million in WAP funds -- a $76 million (or 33 percent) reduction from 2006. This would mean that more than 33,000 families would be denied services based on these cuts in appropriations.

In response, NASCSP provided testimony to both the Senate and House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittees in support of a $242.5 million (House) and $275 million (Senate) in WAP funding level for 2007. We also supported significant increases in LIHEAP and SEP.

The House Appropriations Committee voted to provide $254.5 million for the Program. There was no final number agreed to in the Senate, but the subcommittee had initially agreed upon $204.5 million. Since Congress was unable to pass a budget for FY07, a Continuing Resolution was put in place, funding the WAP at the FY06 level of $242.5 million.

A Continuing Resolution offers leeway in determining final budget allocations and the Department of Energy may choose to fund WAP at a number significantly below Congress’s suggested amount. NASCSP, NEADA, and NASEO have worked with the Northeast/Midwest Energy Coalition in both the House and Senate to prepare "Dear Colleague" letters in support of the $254.5 million level. Several of these letters and individual responses from Members expressing their support have found their way to OMB and DOE. Most significantly, the Senate “Dear Colleague” letter received 35 signatures including Senator Robert Byrd’s. His support bodes well for our Program.

DOE and OMB are currently in the process of negotiating the final figures. We will keep you posted as these issues develop.

2008 Budget

In FY08, the Weatherization Assistance Program is once more slated to receive a cut in the President’s Budget. The Administration has asked for $144 million- a $98 million (41%) cut from the FY06 (and possible FY07) number of $242.5 million.

In response, NASCSP will provide testimony to both the Senate and House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittees in support of a $275 million in WAP funding for FY08 and $74 million for State Energy Programs. We also support significant increases for LIHEAP.

Potential Transfer from DOE to HHS

Last year brought rumors about a proposed transfer of the Weatherization Assistance Program from the Department of Energy to Health and Human Services. The DOE is the only federal department concerned with energy efficiency in housing and remains the only place for the WAP to operate. An upheaval of this Program to another Department would greatly impair WAP’s ability to operate and would be detrimental to the oversight and delivery of Weatherization services everywhere.

Fortunately, this consideration was met with nearly unanimous disapproval from our State Directors, Congress and even the Department’s own State Energy Advisory Board.
NASCSP, NASEO, and NEADA worked with the Northeast/Midwest Energy Coalition in both the House and Senate to secure “Dear Colleague” letters against the move and Senators Bingaman and Domenici expressed their disapproval in a letter to Secretary Bodman and OMB Director Portman.

Bodman’s response was that they were not, at this time, seeking to move the program but were rather “studying how greater integration and coordination of this program [WAP] and HHS’s Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program can better serve our communities”.

We will closely monitor these plans for greater integration and what they may entail.