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Hope for bipartisan action on energy

Hold onto your hats, there just may be bipartisan legislation on the horizon. And who would have guessed that after the hyper-partisan Keystone XL showdown, the topic to come together on would be of all things, energy?

First, in the wee hours of March 27, after the contentious budget resolution was passed at 3 a.m., Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) appeared on a nearly empty Senate floor and quietly passed a stripped down version of their energy efficiency bill with a unanimous vote of two. Not exactly a conventional process, but it did succeed in moving forward a bill that has been stalled for years – albeit a “mini” version that focuses on improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings and government agencies.

{mosads}Now, another bipartisan energy efficiency bill is garnering support from both sides of the aisle. In fact the very senator who sponsored the bill to approve the Keystone pipeline, John Hoeven (R-N.D.), has introduced the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act (S 600) of 2015. Along with lead co-sponsor Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the bill already has four co-sponsors from both parties.

The Energy Efficiency for Nonprofits Act would set up a pilot program to help nonprofit organizations retrofit buildings in order to save energy. This funding is crucial because it will allow congregations and other nonprofits, which are not eligible for tax credits, to get past the hurdle of up-front costs for renovation. Grants could cover up to 50 perrcent of energy efficiency improvement projects — up to $200,000.

Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) plan to introduce a companion measure in the House. Despite the notorious partisan rancor of that chamber, energy efficiency that will benefit nonprofits and religious institutions may be able to bring both sides together to help nonprofits serving the public to save energy and save money.

Funding for energy efficiency will enable America’s hospitals, youth centers, YMCA’s, museums, and houses of worship to cut operating costs and contribute to America’s energy independence while curbing pollution and creating jobs.

Thousands of Interfaith Power & Light congregations across the United States have already made strides toward energy efficiency as they endeavor to care for creation. The Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act would allow congregations with fewer resources to implement cost efficient and environmentally friendly energy efficiency improvements.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings account for 39 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. Energy efficient houses of worship can be models for their local communities. With the help of the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act, congregations will have access to technological advances that decrease pollution and increase cost-savings.

Perhaps energy efficiency is the unexpected but common sense issue that members of Congress will find common ground on this year. As the cherry blossoms begin to open and our thoughts turn to regeneration and renewal this Easter season, let’s hope seeds of cooperation on behalf of the greater good are also sprouting in Washington.

Stephenson is executive director of Interfaith Power & Light, a national organization with 40 state affiliates working with 15,000 congregations of all faiths to use energy efficiently and address climate change.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Jeanne Shaheen John Hoeven Rob Portman

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