Hearings - Statement
 
Statement of Barbara Boxer
Hearing: Full Committee hearing entitled, “Oversight of the GSA and Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings.”
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

(Remarks as prepared for delivery)


Thank you for being here today for this important hearing on “Oversight of the GSA and Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings.” Improving energy efficiency is one of the most immediate ways we can cut greenhouse gas pollution. I am pleased we are focusing on this important opportunity for progress – especially given that today is Earth Day.

We are in a time that calls for urgent action on the threat posed by global warming. In 2007, the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared that the evidence for global warming is “unequivocal” and painted a stark and sobering picture of the future that awaits us if we fail to act. Unless we act, we face rising sea levels, more frequent droughts and floods, loss of species, spreading disease and other impacts.

Just last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed an endangerment finding that said that global warming pollution is a danger to the public’s health and welfare. EPA’s words are a wake-up call for action. EPA said:

“The effects of climate change observed to date and projected to occur in the future – including but not limited to the increased likelihood of more frequent and intense heat waves, more wildfires, degraded air quality, more heavy downpours and flooding, increased drought, greater sea level rise, more intense storms, harm to water resources, harm to agriculture, and harm to wildlife and ecosystems – are effects on public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.”

“This is not a close case in which the magnitude of the harm is small and the probability great, or the magnitude large and the probability small. In both magnitude and probability, climate change is an enormous problem. The greenhouse gases that are responsible for it endanger public health and welfare within the meaning of the Clean Air Act.”

The best and most flexible way to respond to the EPA’s call is to enact a market based cap and trade system which will help us make the transition to clean energy and will bring us innovation and strong economic growth. We need to work together to pass comprehensive global warming legislation this year. But we must all get started fighting global warming now.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, buildings in the U.S. account for 39 percent of total energy use, 12 percent of total water consumption, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, and 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

As the owner or lessee of over 354 million square feet of space in 8,600 buildings located in more than 2,200 communities nationwide, the General Services Administration (GSA) is playing a key role in improving the efficiency of office buildings nationwide.

In the last Congress, we enacted legislation to provide for construction of “green” government buildings; support green schools programs; and retrofit federal buildings with energy-efficient technologies, such as better lighting.

Earlier this year, we recognized the GSA’s unique role in promoting energy efficiency by providing about $4.5 billion for the conversion of GSA facilities to high-performance green buildings in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Those measures are a good beginning. The projects funded by those dollars will save energy and put Americans back to work.

But there is more we can do to make government buildings a model of energy efficiency. Today we will hear a report from the GSA on the implementation of the Recovery Act funding and its efforts to “green” public buildings, including increasing energy efficiency.

On the second panel we will hear from building and energy efficiency experts from outside of government regarding the progress that has been made in Public Buildings to date, the barriers to further improvements, and what more can be done.

I look forward to that testimony and to working with my colleagues to make our nation’s public buildings a model.

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