American Savings and Conservation Act: What it is and why it matters

The House of Representatives has passed a bill on its first day back to work, the largest expenditure on climate change in the United States. The American Savings and Conservation Act, or H.R. 685,…

American Savings and Conservation Act: What it is and why it matters

The House of Representatives has passed a bill on its first day back to work, the largest expenditure on climate change in the United States. The American Savings and Conservation Act, or H.R. 685, adds more than $1.8bn to environmental funding since 2010 and could prove to be one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in the history of Congress.

The bill authorizes two climate change initiatives that are complex in nature but easier to explain with some context. It requires agencies to produce the budgets and data needed to estimate the cost of human-made climate change over the next decade and it allows environmental experts to work with the US Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help save energy.

These are either expensive programs for the U.S. government to undertake or have a real chance of seeing a resurgence of interest and funding in the future. What’s not clear is whether they will bear fruit or how much success they’ll have.

Almost $1.6bn is being set aside for energy efficiency work, which comes as the Trump administration rolls back Obama-era efforts to address climate change. One $458m Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Grant Program will allow federal agencies to buy and install energy efficiency equipment.

Another $1.1bn is allocated to the Smart Community and Energy Efficiency Loan Fund. This grant program will provide state and local governments with $2.5bn to support energy efficiency projects in low-income communities, which will reduce the harmful effects of climate change by turning off more than 40 million homes from harmful carbon emissions.

Another $950m is set aside for weatherization, which will help people save on their energy bills, and $103m will be devoted to preventative measures such as establishing better air quality standards. Nearly 20 million homes would benefit from improved heating systems.

Of course, the bill is not a done deal. A vote to a cut a rule that requires reporting on climate change from energy and climate policies has to go through the Senate and approval by Obama.

If it passes the upper chamber, it will go to Obama’s desk for his signature or veto. After that, it will be up to the EPA and NOAA to implement the programs. They have yet to see the full impact of the bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill and they have a lot of work to do.

This article was updated with additional information throughout.

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