In recognition of Earth Day, we thought we’d take a moment to review recent legislative activity that highlights the role of historic preservation in the green movement. Here are a few recent examples from the federal level:
§ On Friday, April 16, the Obama Administration hosted a White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors. The conference included the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, ranchers, farmers, state and local government leaders, Tribal leaders, conservationists, preservationists, business representatives and more, who gathered to discuss the outdoors as an integral part of their communities. During the discussion, two major challenges were identified for developing a 21st century conservation agenda: maintaining and creating great urban parks, and enhancing the nation’s rivers, waterways and rural landscapes by working with private landowners and ranchers. An emphasis was also placed on reconnecting open space and lands that have been fragmented by development
§ HR 4989, the “Federal Buildings Designs Standard Act of 2009” was introduced by Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) on March 25th that would require all federal agencies to consider the life-cycle costs during the design of federal buildings. These costs include investment, capital, installation, energy, operating, maintenance and replacement costs. The National Trust is currently reviewing HR 4989 for potential opportunities to expand the life-cycle analysis agenda to consider the rehabilitation of existing structures as well as new construction.
§ The National Trust reports that they recently “submitted testimony for the record to the House Ways and Means Committee espousing the benefits of historic preservation to the green economy as well as a key energy efficiency retrofit amendment included as past of the Community Restoration and Revitalization Act (HR 3715/S. 1743)”. The National Trust’s energy-efficiency amendment, which would boost the existing federal rehabilitation tax credit to provide an additional $2-$5 per square foot depending on energy savings, was emphasized during the testimony. It was reported that Section 10 of the bill allows for combining renewable energy tax credits with historic preservation tax credits for the highest possible energy reductions. So far, HR 3715 has 70 co-sponsors in the House and S. 1743 has six co-sponsors in the Senate.
§ During a committee review of HUD’s budget priorities on April 15th, Senate Banking Committee chair Christopher Dodd (D-CT) expressed his sponsorship of the Livable Communities Act (S. 1619). This bill would authorize challenge grants to integrate transportation, housing, energy, and economic development activities carried out across policy and governmental jurisdictions; promote sustainable and location-efficient development; and implement projects identified in a comprehensive regional plan. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan also addressed the need to attract private capital and equity into refurbishing existing housing stock during the committee’s review.
§ The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the House version of the HOME STAR bill (HR 5019). This bill includes a storm window replacement rebate of up to $1,000 for historic buildings. The program includes labor and material costs for a minimum of five and maximum of twelve windows which “comply with any procedures that the Secretary may set for storm windows and their instillation”.
§ On March 20th the House passed the Public Lands Service Corps Act of 2009 (HR 1612) with amendments. This bill expands the authorization of opportunities for young Americans to be involved with restoring the nation’s natural, cultural, historic, archaeological, recreational and scenic resources. Increased funding of the program will help prepare future public land managers and will promote the value of public service.
§ The National Trust’s Center for State and Local Policy recently released its report on schools. The report, produced in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, suggests ways to ensure that communities- when making school closing, consolidation and site selection decisions- weigh educational, health, environmental, community and fiscal considerations.
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