Press Release

April 19, 2011

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski ( both D-MD), along with a bipartisan group of 23 senators have called on Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu to avoid making disproportionate cuts to the Department’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and State Energy Program (SEP). 

The Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011, which Congress passed last week, cuts funding for the Department of Energy by 20 percent.  In the letter to Secretary Chu, the Senators urged him to maintain appropriate funding levels for WAP and SEP, two programs that strengthen economic security and competitiveness, reduce energy demand, and promote renewable energy.  Additionally, both programs generate significant economic returns and savings for every federal dollar invested.   

A PDF of the senators’ letter to Secretary Chu is attached, and the full text of the letter is below:

Dear Mr. Secretary: 

We are writing regarding the potential impact of the recent budget agreement on the

Weatherization program and the State Energy Program (SEP) within the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) budget of the Department of Energy.

Section 1435 of the Continuing Resolution provides that “Notwithstanding section 1101, the (funding) level for ‘‘Department of Energy, Energy Programs, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy shall be $1,835,000,000.”  This would be a reduction of roughly 20 percent.  However, we are concerned that without Congressional guidance on how this cut is to be distributed, it could result in disproportionate cuts to the WAP and SEP programs.  

The Weatherization program (WAP) helps low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled by improving the energy efficiency of their homes and lowering their energy bills.  These energy bill savings can then be used to purchase other essentials.  A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that WAP returned $2.72 in benefits for every dollar invested. 

Similarly, the State Energy Program (SEP) allows states to support a variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects including improvements to schools and hospitals, the establishment of partnerships with utilities and retailers to promote the sale of high-efficiency appliances, and it facilitates the development of states’ renewable energy resources.  A 2005 Oak Ridge National Laboratory Study found that for every federal dollar invested in SEP over $7 in energy savings is provided and almost $11 in non-federal funds is leveraged.

To assure that these programs will continue to carry out their important roles in reducing energy demand, promoting renewable energy, and making our economy more secure and competitive, we urge you to limit cuts in funding to these programs to the same rate of 20 percent as the budget agreement would cut the overall EERE budget. More specifically, we request that within the funds provided, $40 million shall be for base State Energy Program funding by formula and $168 million shall be for the base Weatherization Assistance Program funding by formula. 

Thank you for your past support for these programs.  We look forward to your sympathetic consideration of this request that would assure the continuation of these two important energy programs.