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Jul 16, 2010

 

     

 

This week, the State of California sued mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for blocking Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs; the town of Babylon in New York held a rally in support of PACE and threatened a lawsuit; and members of Congress prepared legislation that would direct the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) not to block PACE programs from moving forward.

As we explained in the last weekly update, PACE programs help residential and commercial property owners make energy improvements to their properties. Through PACE, local governments issue bonds to help finance property owners' renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects. Property owners apply for financing for their projects, which they then pay off over a long period of time (usually 20 years) through a surcharge on their property tax bill. There are no up-front costs whatsoever, and property owners can usually expect to save more money on their energy bills than they will have to pay in increased property taxes. If the property changes hands, the cost of the upgrades is passed on to the next property owner.

PACE programs have been authorized in 23 states--most recently this week in Missouri, thanks in part to the efforts of the Missouri Apollo Alliance.

But these programs are in jeopardy, because Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHFA have recentlytaken actions that have frozen most PACE programs around the country and could lead to PACE's ultimate demise. They object to the fact that under most PACE programs, a lien is placed on the property that will take priority over the mortgage if the homeowner defaults. The FHFA and the U.S. Treasury Department have both instructed banks to place additional restrictions on home loans to borrowers in jurisdictions that have PACE programs, among other directives.

Thankfully, cities, states and federal policymakers are fighting back in an effort to save these programs that have so much potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings, lower energy bills for consumers, and create jobs in home weatherization and renewable energy installation. The State of California filed a lawsuit on Wednesday charging Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with misrepresenting the nature of PACE programs and municipal financing. The lawsuit asserts that PACE funding is an assessment, not a loan, and that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have long accepted local governments' use of assessments in California to finance improvements that serve a public purpose, from the paving of roads and the undergrounding of utilities, to privately owned improvements like seismic and fire-related retrofits.

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac received enormous federal bailouts," said California Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose office filed the lawsuit. "But now they're throwing up impermeable barriers to bank lending that creates jobs, stimulates the economy and boosts clean energy."

While most PACE programs in California have been suspended indefinitely because of the actions of Fannie, Freddie and the FHFA, the town of Babylon, New York has vowed to continue its PACE program, despite pressure from federal agencies. The Apollo Alliance has featured Babylon's Long Island Green Homes program among our clean energy success stories. More than 500 homeowners in the Town of Babylon have participated in the program, which reduces homeowners' energy bills by an average of more than $1,000 per year and a home's carbon emissions by close to four tons annually.

Babylon leaders joined with more than 50 local workers at a rally on Tuesday to announce that the town plans to sue the FHFA. "With a stroke of the pen, some faceless bureaucrats at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are attempting to kill the most potent jobs creation programs we have in this country," said Town of Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone. "We refuse to go along with this arbitrary and capricious attack that is nothing more than a jobs killer."

Aside from a legal remedy to the PACE crisis, legislative remedies are also in the works. Representative Steve Israel (D-NY), who represents the town of Babylon, is working with Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) on legislation explicitly directing the FHFA not to block PACE from moving forward and directing all federal regulators not to block commercial building PACE programs. The legislation should be introduced sometime next week. Israel's office said that government loan guarantees for PACE programs are another option to appease Fannie, Freddie and the FHFA. Loan guarantees along these lines were included in the American Clean Energy and Security (ACE Act, but have not gone into effect because the Senate has yet to pass similar legislation.

Reps. Israel and Thompson joined 14 other House members in signing a letter to FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco, urging him to work with other federal agencies to resolve the impasse over PACE-or to resign. As they said in the letter, PACE programs create jobs, and that is what our economy needs right now.

Stay tuned to the Apollo blog for new developments in the PACE debacle.

Photo: Babylon, NY Supervisor Steve Bellone and local workers rally in support of the Long Island Green Homes program.

In other news …

*California labor unions will put their weight behind the state's landmark global warming law. This week, at its annual legislative convention, the California Labor Federation voted to oppose Proposition 23, an effort funded by Texas oil companies to stop implementation of California's landmark global warming law, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32. AB 32 is a model law whose implementation will include a strong renewable portfolio standard; strict building and appliance energy efficiency standards; GHG emissions standards for passenger vehicles; a low-carbon fuel standard; and a cap-and-trade program; among many other measures. The California Labor Federation is made up of more than 1,200 AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions, representing 2.1 million union members in manufacturing, retail, construction, hospitality, public sector, health care, entertainment and other industries. Click here to read a press release about the California Labor Fed's opposition to Proposition 23.

*Policy Matters Ohio and the Ohio Apollo Alliance release new report on clean transportation. On Monday, Policy Matters Ohio and the Ohio Apollo Alliance released All Aboard: Clean Energy Transportation Opportunities Favor Ohio Economy. The report, based on research commissioned by the Apollo Alliance and conducted by Duke University, finds that increased public transit investment could drive demand for heavy transportation equipment and component parts produced in Ohio, retaining jobs and growing new ones. Click here to read the report.

*Support Clean and Safe Ports! The EPA award-winning Los Angeles Clean Truck Program has put more than 6,000 clean diesel and alternative fuel trucks on the road and reduced diesel emissions by more than 70 percent since it was first enacted in 2008. Unfortunately the trucking industry has challenged this cutting-edge program in court, which has put key components of the program in jeopardy. To support port truck drivers and communities near the ports, please sign this petition urging transportation leaders in Congress to stand up for strong environmental and labor standards at U.S. ports. Click here to sign the petition.

You can keep track of the quickening pace of state and federal action on clean energy policy on ourApollo Blog and Daily Digest.

And how about joining us on Twitter?

Take care and talk to you again next week.

Yours, 
Andrea Buffa
Senior Writer and Policy Associate
Apollo Alliance 
buffa@apolloalliance.org

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Posted: Jul 16, 2010 11:55am
Jul 7, 2010
Real estate developer Kitson & Partners today announced a landmark agreement with electric utility Florida Power & Light to build the world's largest solar photovoltaic power plant at Babcock Ranch, Florida - making it the world's first city powered by solar energy. 
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Posted: Jul 7, 2010 4:53am
Dec 4, 2009
UCS Action AlertSetting the Precedent for Clean Energy


Dear Eric, 

Carefully-sited offshore wind power can make a critical contribution to reducing global warming pollution and cleaning up our nation’s energy supply. As America’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind would generate the equivalent of 75 percent of Cape Cod’s energy and would set an important precedent for the future of clean energy development in this country. More than seven years’ worth of state and federal assessments have found that Cape Wind would have overwhelmingly positive environmental effects. Now it needs to clear one last hurdle, a favorable ruling by the Department of Interior. Please urge Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to let Cape Wind finally be installed.

Take Action Now

Sincerely,
Ben Larson 
Ben Larson
National Field Organizer
Climate and Energy Program

Contact Secretary Ken Salazar today


Dear Secretary Salazar:

After its extended review by state and federal agencies, the Cape Wind permitting process should come to an end. Please issue a favorable Record of Decision on the outstanding "Section 106" process under the National Historic Preservation Act, and let Cape Wind be built.

The Cape Wind project has undergone more than seven years of exhaustive reviews by both the state and federal government, including a comprehensive two-year review by the federal Minerals Management Service, which examined 27 categories of potential effects of the proposal. The reviews found that the vast majority of the project’s environmental effects will be minor, negligible, or even positive, and there will likely be no significant lasting negative impacts. With this in mind, Cape Wind should proceed, especially as it will not only reduce global warming pollution but will set a precedent—showing the way we can begin developing our country’s offshore wind resources in a responsible manner.

Please issue a favorable record of decision and let the Cape Wind project proceed.

Take Action Now

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Posted: Dec 4, 2009 12:08pm
Jul 28, 2009

Dear MoveOn member,

The New York Times just wrote an incredibly important editorial. Did you see it?

In it, they called on the Senate to save the Clean Air Act from an underhanded attack: a loophole in the energy bill that removes President Obama's authority to clean up existing coal plants. 

"The older, dirtiest [coal] plants...simply cannot be let off the hook," the Times wrote.1

If we don't do something, the coal industry is likely to win this battle.

Several key senators are already speaking out on this issue. But to get the rest to stand up to the coal industry, we need to let them know we're paying attention and demanding action.We're aiming to get 200,000 petition signatures in the next week and then hand-deliver them when senators are home for their August recess. 

Can you click here to sign your name?

http://pol.moveon.org/cleanairact

The petition says: "Congress must not repeal the Clean Air Act provision that requires President Obama to crack down on dirty coal plants." 

Without this important Clean Air Act provision, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency will have to halt recent efforts toward cracking down on the global warming pollution from dirty coal plants.2
And if Congress eliminates this part of the Clean Air Act, they'll let old, dirty coal plants off the hook for their pollution—and it could pave the way for the construction of over 100 new coal plants in communities across the country.3
In short, as long as Big Coal dominates our politics and our energy grid, wind and solar power won't be able to compete on a level playing field. That's terrible news for the climate and the economy, because wind and solar create more than twice as many jobs as coal and oil.4
That's why we need the Senate to save the Clean Air Act and open the door to the clean energy economy of the future. Can you tell the Senate to save the Clean Air Act? Clicking here will add your name:

http://pol.moveon.org/cleanairact/

Thanks for all you do.

–Anna, Adam, Steven, Justin, and the rest of the team

Sources: 

1. "Climate Loopholes," The New York Times, July 22, 2009  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/opinion/22wed11.html

2. "Climate endangerment finding clears White House review," The New York Times, April 14, 2009 
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51624&id=16672-8424909-zSxHjgx&t=5

"Climate change legislation now faces senate heat," Albany Times Union, July 12, 2009 
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51623&id=16672-8424909-zSxHjgx&t=6

3. Memo on Clean Air Act authority, Pawa Law, July 2, 2009 [PDF] 
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51620&id=16672-8424909-zSxHjgx&t=7

4. "Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy," Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, September 2008 
http://www.moveon.org/r?r=51621&id=16672-8424909-zSxHjgx&t=8 

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Posted: Jul 28, 2009 6:27am
Jan 20, 2009

It's a historic day here in Green America's hometown of Washington, DC, with today's inauguration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden drawing an estimated 2 to 4 million participants to the National Mall to watch history being made.

Discussion; http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/1021174

Last week, we told you about our Clean Energy Victory Bonds proposal (and other solutions from the green economy), which we shared with the Obama Transition team.  This week, we are spreading that message to a wider audience of Americans, in our latest newspaper editorial, a shortened version of our recent Real Green article.

See a new Responsible Shopper profile or a additional recent Real Green article about the upcoming TV transition. The digital switch is scheduled for Feb. 18 (sooner than you think), though the Obama team has proposed a possible deadline extension. Whenever the swich happens, we need to spread the word about how to keep it as green as possible.

For a greener 2009,
Alisa (signature)
Alisa Gravitz, 
Executive Director
Green America

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Posted: Jan 20, 2009 12:11pm

 

 
 
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