Views on Legislation To Continue State and Local Government Involvement in Promoting National Energy Objectives

EMD-80-15: Published: Nov 27, 1979. Publicly Released: Dec 3, 1979.

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Legislation has been proposed which would continue State and local government involvement in promoting national energy objectives. Overall, GAO agreed with the thrust of the bill and believed that legislation of this type is necessary to develop the Federal/State partnership needed to address national energy problems. The proposed legislation would authorize $110 million annually to assist State and local governments over a 5-year period to develop an overall State energy plan, consolidate the three existing Federal grant programs, create a special energy program to fund directly innovative projects at the local level which may not qualify for assistance under other categories, and provide States additional assistance to cover administrative costs of existing programs. The proposed program would carry forward some of the required activities under existing State energy conservation programs and substantially increase the role of States in addressing national energy problems and issues. A provision in the proposed act requires States to implement energy performance standards for buildings to be eligible for assistance. However, because of the difficulties States have had in implementing these standards, GAO believes the Act should require the Department of Energy (DOE) to work closely with the States to establish thermal efficiency standards for those States which have not fully met existing program requirements. GAO questioned how the basic purpose of this legislation, to promote national energy objectives, will be met when national energy conservation objectives have not yet been established. The proposed Act would also require States to include in their plans steps to remove barriers to the use of renewable energy resources, but has no requirement that States consider the role of renewable energy sources. While existing programs are 100 percent Federally funded, the Act would require each State to provide $1 from non-Federal fund sources for each $5 of Federal funds allocated. Although this should increase overall funding and give the States more incentive to carry out the programs, it is possible that some financially pressed States may elect to cut back or eliminate their participation in the program.

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