Thursday, April 26, 2007

Senators Kerry and Snowe Press SBA for Action on Energy Program

Three weeks after pressing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson re EPA's inadequate allocation of resources for its ENERGY STAR for Small Business program [see GoodBiz113's "Kerry, Snowe Seek Energy Star Details from EPA" post on April 9], Senators John Kerry [D-Mass.] and Olympia Snowe [R-Maine] are now looking to the U.S. Small Business Administration for answers regarding SBA’s implementation of a federally mandated energy efficiency program.

At a hearing last month, the assistant administrator for SBA's Office of Policy testified that, although the program was created as part of the Energy Policy Act in August 2005, the program has not been implemented by the Administration.

Following, is the text of Kerry-Snowe letter to SBA Administrator Steven Preston:

April 24, 2007

The Honorable Steven Preston
U.S. Small Business Administration
409 Third Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20416

Dear Administrator Preston,

As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, we recently held a hearing to explore the ways in which small businesses can help to address the global warming crisis. We thank you for the testimony of Dan Horowitz, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Policy, on behalf of the Small Business Administration [SBA]. The purpose of this letter is to follow up on Mr. Horowitz’s testimony -- specifically, as it addressed the SBA’s responsibilities that were mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 [EPAct].

The EPAct, which President George W. Bush signed into law on August 8, 2005, requires, inter alia, that the SBA, working with several other agencies, “shall develop a governmentwide program, building on the ENERGY STAR for Small Business program,” to assist small business with:
[A] Becoming more energy-efficient;
[B] Understanding the cost savings from improved energy efficiency;
[C] Understanding and accessing Federal procurement opportunities with regard to ENERGY STAR technologies and products; and
[D] Identifying financing options for energy-efficiency upgrades.

In addition, the SBA, as part of the outreach to small businesses under the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR for Small Business program, may enter into cooperative agreements with qualified partners to establish, maintain, and promote a “Small Business Energy Clearinghouse.” This Clearinghouse would provide a centralized resource where small businesses may access, telephonically and electronically, technical information and advice to help increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs.

We are, frankly, concerned by the lack of progress SBA has made in implementing these requirements. Twenty months have passed since the EPAct was signed into law, and SBA appears to be nowhere close to satisfying these requirements.

Mr. Horowitz addressed the Administration’s efforts to implement this program, testifying that, although this program was not yet operational, “there are several people working on it,” and that the hearing “provided a catalyst for making [the program] a priority.” Mr. Horowitz also testified that the SBA would provide to the Committee a progress report on the four mandated requirements under the Energy Policy Act.

Small business is the engine that drives the American economy, employing half of all private-sector employees, producing half of the nation’s non-farm private gross domestic product, and creating nearly three-quarters of all net new jobs each year. Some estimates project that small businesses also use approximately half of all commercial and industrial energy in this country.

Despite these statistics, and despite Mr. Horowitz’s testimony to the contrary, there is little evidence that promoting energy efficiency for small businesses is a priority within the Administration. More than a month has passed since the date of the hearing, and the Committee has received none of the information that SBA promised to supply.

We request that you provide, within 30 days of receipt of this letter, an update on all of SBA’s small business requirements under the EPAct, including:
[1] Any and all resources required to implement the program, as well as whether additional appropriations are needed for SBA to effectively implement the EPAct requirements;
[2] Any and all staff that are dedicated to implementing and administering the Small Business Energy Clearinghouse; and
[3] A timeframe that details a schedule for completion of all SBA requirements under the EPAct.
We believe that the SBA can and must play a significant role in assisting small businesses to become more energy-efficient.

Thank you for your attention to our request. Should you have any questions about the substance of the hearing, please do not hesitate to contact us directly, or to contact Brian Rice [with Senator Kerry] at [202] 224-5175 or Alex Hecht [with Senator Snowe] at [202] 224-7884.


John F. Kerry

Olympia J. Snowe
Ranking Member

GoodBiz113's take: As champions of small business and the environment, we again commend Sen. Kerry and Sen. Snowe on their collaborative and persistent efforts to promote entrepreneurship and energy efficiency. Keep fighting the good, bipartisan fight!

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