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Biden ramps up retrofitting

By Juliet Eilperin

Vice President Biden will award $452 million in "Retrofit Ramp-up" grants to 25 communities across the country on Wednesday to kick off five days of events surrounding the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. In addition to the retrofit awards, every federal agency will commemorate Earth Day with an event or new policy announcement.

"For forty years, Earth Day has focused on transforming the way we use energy and reducing our dependence on fossil fuel - but this year, because of the historic clean energy investments in the Recovery Act, we're poised to make greater strides than ever in building a nationwide clean energy economy," Biden said in a statement. This "investment in some of the most innovative energy-efficiency projects across the country will not only help homeowners and businesses make cost-cutting retrofit improvements, but also create jobs right here in America."

The Obama administration received eight times the number of applications it could fund, spurring proposals for more than $3.5 billion in federal spending. The stimulus grants will support large-scale retrofits and improve the energy efficiency of thousands of buildings nationwide, ranging from individual dwellings to large institutions.

Matt Golden, a northern California contractor and member of the contractor coalition Efficiency First, said the federal funding could help revive the nation's building industry. The administration estimates that the 25 projects announced Wednesday will leverage about $2.8 billion of investment from the private sector over the next 3 years to retrofit homes and businesses.

"The construction industry is in the middle of a toolbelt recession, with a workforce that wants to work and contractors who want to hire," Golden said. "This type of federal leadership is the low-bureaucracy way to send the market signal we need to put people back to work, save energy and give taxpayers a real return on investment."

The administration spread the awards to different geographic regions. The Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development's "Investment in Main Street: Energy Efficiency for Economic Growth" won $20 million, which it will spend on statewide bulk purchasing program for supplies and equipment to support multi-family and small business retrofits.

In Seattle, the Neighborhood Weatherize Every Building Initiative to Power Change also won $20 million. More 40 public, private and nonprofit organizations will concentrate on upgrading neighborhoods in downtown Seattle, starting with single-family homes but also retrofitting grocery stores, restaurants and large commercial, hospital and government buildings.

And if nearly half a billion dollars wasn't enough green, you can catch a cabinet secretary visiting a neighborhood near you over the next five days to celebrate the environment. Among the highlights:

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is scheduled to deliver keynote remarks at the Creating Climate Wealth Summit at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business Wednesday, and then travel to Jersey City, N.J., to visit the Lincoln Park restoration project, which is turning a landfill into a healthy wetland with the aid of recovery funding.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will speak at an Earth Day celebration for Department of Energy employees on Thursday, and then head for Philadelphia for an event touting the importance of energy efficiency.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will attend an Earth Day event at Daley Plaza in Chicago, complete with alternative fuel vehicles.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis hosts an online chat Thursday to discuss issues and opportunities related to Earth Day, and her department will release a report on the green job training opportunities the administration has provided over the past year.

On Earth Day, which falls on Thursday, the National Mall will be swarming with cabinet members: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will speak to 500 local students about the America's Great Outdoors program in an event sponsored by the National Park Service, while Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will also make remarks at an Earth Day ceremony.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson plans to spend Wednesday in Pittsburgh for an Energy Star event with children from the Sarah Heinz House Boys and Girls Club; devote Thursday to participating in an urban-focused community service project with Green For All at the Grant Houses Community Garden in Manhattan and then appear on the David Letterman Show; and finally appear on the National Mall Friday to visit a pollution prevention exhibit put on by EPA's Office of Research and Development.

One can only imagine what the Obama administration would have done if this had been Earth Day's fiftieth anniversary.


Juliet Eilperin

 |  April 21, 2010; 6:00 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I find it interesting that earth day comes during the same general season as Easter. Is that a coincidence? I think not.

Posted by: snorbertzangox | April 22, 2010 7:16 AM
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Good start, but they need to include putting solar/security film on SINGLE-PANED windows, which are hugely inefficient. It costs far less than switching to double paned windows. The savings in energy would cover the cost within 2 years.

So far, the energy legislation has only allowed tax credits if you already had double-paned windows, which most older homes and offices don't have.

Posted by: Fjet2020 | April 21, 2010 7:43 AM
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Mr. need to take a closer look at your home state of Delaware and Delmarva Power's proposal to make customers pay more to supplement their pension funds. For those of us who recognize and utilize energy saving measures and practice "going green", we'll be charged more to pay for DP's stockholders' bad investments. Looks like another "bail-out" that we simply cannot and will not endure.

Posted by: poescrow | April 21, 2010 6:24 AM
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