Detail

Congress Continues to Focus on Climate-Related Legislation

  • June 18, 2021

DC Capitol Building

Legislators in both the Senate and House this week continued to work on stand-alone bills designed to lower U.S. energy consumption and reduce the risks posed by GHG emissions, in tandem with the administration’s emphasis on climate change and building “retrofits” through the comprehensive American Jobs Plan proposal. (Roundtable Weekly, May 28 and June 11)

Senate: The INSULATE Buildings Act

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  • A bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on June 15 would seek to improve the energy efficiency of buildings and homes by providing financial resources to state-level energy agencies.

  • The INSULATE Buildings Act (summary) would establish a new U.S. Department of Energy “revolving loan program.” State agencies would then use these federal proceeds to distribute loans and grants to eligible businesses and homeowners to upgrade and retrofit to commercial and residential buildings.

  • The program would also seek to provide states that have the poorest efficiency in their commercial and residential building stock with additional aid.  States could also use up to 25% of their capitalization grant to provide direct grants to small businesses and low-income homeowners.
  • Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, remarked that his INSULATE Buildings Act “provides a significant opportunity to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy consumption in buildings.” (News release, June 15)

Davis-Bacon Wage Requirements

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  • Both the Manchin-Murkowski bill and a recent Senate Finance Committee energy tax incentives bill would require construction projects receiving federal financial support through these measures to comply with “Davis-Bacon” prevailing wage standards. (Roundtable Weekly, May 28)

  • The Finance Committee, chaired by Ron Wyden (D-OR), in May advanced an improved energy efficiency tax deduction for commercial buildings (Section 179D) that would make the incentive more usable for “retrofits” of older buildings, multifamily structures, and REITs. (Clean Energy for America Act (S. 1298), mark-up video and supporting documents)

  • A May 26 Roundtable letter opposed new prevailing wage mandates proposed by the Senate committee bill. The letter warned that the excessive costs from Davis-Bacon compliance will greatly exceed the amount of any tax deduction that Section 179D might provide to incentivize an energy efficient construction project.

House: Climate Risk Disclosures

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  •  The House on June 16 passed the Corporate Governance Improvement and Investor Protection Act (H.R. 1187) on a partisan vote, which incorporated the texts of several bills with support from the White House.

  • Among its provisions, the Act would require companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions and describe their climate risk mitigation strategies. It would also direct the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to issue specific rules within two years that address the disclosures.  (House Financial Services Committee summary and section-by-section overview)

  • At the regulatory level, The Real Estate Roundtable on June 9 commented to the SEC on the unique challenges facing commercial real estate businesses if the Commission eventually requires corporate issuers to report on climate-related financial risks. (Roundtable Weekly, June 11).

  • The bill would also require disclosures to the SEC on matters relating to companies’ political action contributions, lobbying efforts, executive compensation and pay raises, and offshore tax havens.

The measure barely passed the House with only Democrats showing support on a 215-214 vote, indicating that the prospects for passage in the Senate are slim.

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