Weatherization: Full Speed Ahead

Brad Penney –General Counsel, NASCSP–

Events come at us so quickly these days that it’s often hard to see the “big picture.” When I got home last night, I got to thinking about what this week has meant for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP):

The week started with the release of the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for WAP for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 at $137.9 million—nearly $70 million higher than the Congressionally appropriated level of $68 million, thanks to the Department of Energy reprogramming funds. Monday also saw the formal introduction of the bi-partisan WAP/State Energy Program (SEP) reauthorization bill by three great champions of the WAP: Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jack Reed (D-RI). The reauthorization bill has already won the support of more than 25 leading energy efficiency organizations, with more signing on every day.

Tuesday, the Hill moved from FY 13 to FY 14 funding, with the House Appropriations Committee voting to set WAP funding at $77 million, up from $54 million last year. While that number is substantially below what is required for a national Weatherization Program, WAP was one of the few programs within the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) portfolio to receive an increase. Overall, the House Appropriations Committee cut EERE funding by 46%.

To cap off the busy week, on Thursday, Senators Reed and Collins were successful in engineering an amendment in the full Senate Appropriations Committee, raising the WAP number in the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill from $184 to $190 million, closer to Pre-Recovery Act levels.

Taken individually, these achievements may seem small. Taken as a whole, however, they underscore the positive movement of the Program here in Washington. The numbers are not uniformly where we wanted for FY 14, but considering that the budget cutting ax is hitting almost every other energy efficiency program, we are at least marching in the right direction.

Two years from now, when Weatherization funding has stabilized at close to pre-ARRA levels and the Program has been reauthorized, the week of June 24, 2013 will be remembered, not as the beginning of the end of the struggle to save the Program but, as Churchill once said, as the “end of the beginning.”

There are many trap doors on the path ahead of us—there are always trap doors in life. But, for the long view of what we are trying to do, this week was something special.