Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

Capitol Hill Update: House Passes SMACNA-Endorsed School Energy Efficiency Bill

iStock-183288415While many new members of Congress are still learning the ropes and committees are organizing, the U.S. House continues to pass SMACNA priority bills and send them over to the Senate.

The House recently passed school retrofit legislation, The Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act (H.R. 762). The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-8th-Pennsylvania) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan coalition, would create a one-stop-shop clearinghouse of existing school efficiency programs designed to boost school retrofits.

This bill would make it easier for schools to utilize already existing federal programs and financing, helping to improve the energy efficiency and learning environment of schools. It would direct federal agencies to raise awareness of federal programs and financing available to help initiate, develop and finance energy efficiency, distributed generation and energy retrofitting projects for schools.

Importantly, the bill does not require additional spending nor creates any new federal programs. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would assist schools across the country who have long expressed a need for energy efficiency improvements. Serious problems with school buildings and educational infrastructure are widespread throughout the nation, with an estimated 14 million students attending schools that need extensive repair.

Many of these problems involve heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems. Upgrading these HVAC systems increases energy efficiency, improves learning environments and conserves scarce funds.

“By upgrading these systems, we can increase efficiency and focus school funding to achieve better educational outcomes,” said Rep. Paul Tonko (D-20th-New York), a leading co-sponsor of the bill. “We can save taxpayers millions of dollars of their own money while upgrading and modernizing these facilities.”

Republican co-sponsor Rep. Fred Upton (R-6th-Michigan) agreed. “It is going to help schools take advantage of existing programs to cut down on their energy use. We should encourage these innovations in energy efficiencies to help address climate change. This bill is a good step in the right direction.”

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the condition of our nation's schools a grade of “D-plus” in its most recent Infrastructure Report Card. Moreover, 43 percent of schools, according to a U.S. Department of Education survey, indicated that the poor condition of their facilities interferes with the delivery of instruction.

H.R. 762 is a positive step, long identified by SMACNA and its members, to help boost school retrofits.

SMACNA members are encouraged to educate their new members of Congress about this and other legislation that supports the industry. Members may contact them through SMACNA’s Take Action web page.