Energy & Environment
As the only member of the Senate majority to serve on both the Environment and Public Works and the Energy and Natural Resources Committees, Sen. Sanders is uniquely positioned to fight for progressive energy polices and increased environmental protection – issues of great importance to him and to all Vermonters. Sen. Sanders is a leading voice on the need to address global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In an effort to combat the effects of climate change, Sen. Sanders introduced the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, his first piece of legislation introduced after being sworn into the Senate. It aims to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Since then, the need to address the planetary crisis of global climate change has become even more urgent. The military believes global warming could result in food and water scarcity, mass migrations of people and wars fought over shrinking natural resources, all of which could destabilize global security. All across the planet, we are currently seeing record heat waves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, extreme droughts and floods, and damaging wildfires.
Because global warming is the greatest environmental threat facing the planet, Sen. Sanders recently introduced the Climate Protection Act. Because dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions is essential to addressing global warming, the Climate Protection Act sets a price on carbon emissions and rebates the majority of the funds raised directly to the American people. The Act also protects communities from natural gas fracking, invests in energy efficiency and sustainable energy, and helps pay down the national debt.
Sen. Sanders recently introduced the Residential Energy Savings Act to provide funding for energy efficiency financing programs that help homeowners and residents invest in energy efficiency retrofits. Sen. Sanders was also the architect of innovative weatherization and energy efficiency finance programs that help homeowners, small businesses and schools access funding for energy efficiency retrofits. Sen. Sanders' efforts have helped over 15,000 Vermont households save on their energy bills in the last ten years. In addition, Sen. Sanders included a provision that authorized a pilot program that promotes "on-bill financing." Under this program, utility customers would be able to install alternative energy sources like solar panels and geothermal pumping systems at their home or business and repay the cost in monthly installments on their utility bill. Sen. Sanders also joined with Vermont's Gov. Peter Shumlin to host a Vermont Clean Energy Finance Summit, which brought together scientists, bankers, economists, utility executives and senior government officials to examine new ways for Vermont to lead the way toward clean energy by helping fund energy efficiency and sustainable energy projects.
Sen. Sanders' legislative accomplishments include working with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to write the Green Jobs Act (Title X of P.L. 110-140), which created a green jobs workforce training program, and working with Sen. Robert Menendez to write the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (Section 541 of P.L. 110-140), a program to help states and local governments fund energy efficiency and sustainable energy initiatives. Both the Green Jobs Act and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program were funded through the 2009 economic recovery package. Vermont received about $16.5 million to help retrofit homes and buildings to save energy. In addition, the stimulus funded a $69 million investment in a smart grid in Vermont, to help consumers reduce energy use and to help Vermont better integrate intermittent renewable energy sources like solar onto the grid.
A Vermont National Lab Partnership
Sen. Sanders is working to help Vermont become a model for the nation in moving to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. To further Vermont's efforts in energy efficiency and sustainable energy, Sen. Sanders has worked with Sandia National Laboratory to create a Vermont/Sandia partnership that has already received $4 million in funding from the Department of Energy. This unique collaboration between a national energy lab and Vermont's state government, clean tech businesses and academic institutions is working to develop smart grid technologies, cyber-security and solar energy.
Sen. Sanders is one of the most vocal critics of continuing government subsidies and special tax breaks for the nuclear industry, and has called for an end to the Price-Anderson government liability insurance for nuclear reactors. Following the disaster in Fukushima, Sen. Sanders pressed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to swiftly adopt safety reforms recommended by a special task force of senior NRC staff. The announced closure of the Vermont Yankee power plant will help Vermont move toward safer and more sustainable sources of energy like wind, solar, and geothermal, and Sen. Sanders is working aggressively to make sure the decommissioning process for the plant happens quickly and safely.
The Military and Sustainable Energy
Sen. Sanders believes the military can play a key role in helping our nation transform our energy system to cleaner energy alternatives. Working with the Vermont National Guard, Sen. Sanders helped fund a 1.45 megawatt solar energy project at the Vermont Air National Guard base, the second largest solar installation in the state. This project is meeting 40 percent of the Guard's electricity needs while saving an estimated $250,000 a year in energy costs. In addition, the senator chaired a Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee hearing to examine how the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force are investing in advanced bio-fuels to reduce dependence on oil, and how solar and other sustainable technologies are helping reduce the risk of harm to our troops by reducing the amount of fuel that needs to be hauled through dangerous territory.