House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Green the Capitol Initiative is officially no more.
Facing deep budget cuts and long-standing Republican resistance, the energy savings program championed by the California Democrat when she was Speaker and administered by the Chief Administrative Officer has been folded into an existing energy reduction initiative handled by the Architect of the Capitol, officials announced Thursday.
Parties involved in the decision said consolidating the initiatives will save money, eliminate redundancy and allow the CAO to focus on its core administrative duties, which Republicans have long complained were obscured by the energy savings initiative.
House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) “absolutely supports this transition,” said his spokeswoman, Salley Wood. “A campus-wide initiative is going to promote greater collaboration between the two chambers and ultimately produce better energy savings.”
It will also be a step toward the $11 million budget cut facing the CAO next year.
House Democrats, on the other hand, said they are skeptical that the AOC will adequately take over all aspects of the program, especially outreach to House offices.
“This move should not be a surprise to any of us,” Kyle Anderson, spokesman for the House Administration Committee Democrats, said in a statement. “Less than seven months into the 112th Congress, the current Majority has chosen to send a clear message about its lack of commitment to environmentally responsible policies by shifting sustainability and greening efforts to the Architect of the Capitol.”
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement that while Republicans have “chosen to demagogue the issue,” he hopes the AOC will carry the mantle of the Green the Capitol Initiative, particularly the goal of reducing the House’s energy consumption. “Working closely with the Green the Capitol Initiative, Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers has taken bold steps to apply the progress made by the House to the entire Capitol complex,” Hammill said. “The Architect should continue to implement measures in the most aggressive manner possible including the 50 percent energy reduction goal for the House of Representatives.”
The AOC has had a broad role in bringing energy savings to the Capitol complex, installing thousands of energy-efficient light fixtures, low-flow toilets and LEDs.
Ayers said in a statement that consolidating the programs makes the overall effort more efficient.
“This greatly improves our return on investment in Congressional facilities by continuing to include sustainability in our long-range project planning,” he said.
The complex is on its way to complying with the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act mandate that it reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015.
But Pelosi created the Green the Capitol program in an attempt to go beyond that target in the House and reduce energy consumption in the chamber by 50 percent by 2017.
House Republicans undid a key component of the program when they took control of the chamber this year, canceling the composting program and replacing compostable cups and tableware in House cafeterias with Styrofoam and plastic products.
The legislative branch appropriations bill also rolled back millions of dollars in funding for energy demonstration projects. An amendment to the fiscal 2011 continuing resolution by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) earlier this year sought to defund the program entirely.
In a March hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, Ayers noted that having two separate energy reduction goals for two sides of the Capitol complex can be complicated, especially when it comes to calculating which energy is consumed by which chamber.
But AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said the sustainability program might exceed the mandate.
“We are continuing to work at reducing energy by 30 percent by 2015, and we’re not going to stop there,” Malecki said. “We’re basically continuing to do what we have been doing in collaboration with the CAO.”
The Green the Capitol Twitter and Facebook accounts have been deleted, and the CAO website dedicated to the initiative now redirects to an AOC website outlining the agency’s sustainability practices.
While there were once seven employees managing the program, only one remains.
The outreach end of the initiative will be folded into the already existent Power to Save program, which seeks to educate Hill staff about ways to be more energy efficient.