Times Herald-Record: Hayworth works on green bill
By John Sullivan, Times Herald-Record
U.S. Rep. Nan Hayworth joined Republican and Democratic colleagues in sponsoring a bill to make it more attractive for homeowners and businesses to retrofit their homes with environmentally friendly improvements.
The bill announced in a press call Wednesday promotes the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which already has been adopted by 28 states. The program also is supported by multiple towns and cities in Hayworth's congressional district — New York's 19th — that are trying to reduce energy usage.
The voluntary program would allow the owners of homes and commercial buildings to pay for weatherization, solar, wind and other clean-energy technologies and water-conservation measures through a special assessment attached to their property tax bills. The assessment would be determined based on the cost of the improvements and paid for over 20 years. If the property were sold, the new property owner would pay off the balance of the loan, while reaping the benefits of the energy-efficiency improvements.
The initial costs are paid by the government, which recoups the loan payment costs through the assessments.
Proponents of the program believe it will spur energy efficiency, as well as create jobs in the energy-efficiency industry.
"This is a great way to facilitate energy savings and job creation, and at no (upfront) cost to taxpayers," Hayworth, a Republican, said from Washington.
Mike Thompson, the Democratic congressman sponsoring the bill with Hayworth and Republican Dan Lungren, said Sonoma County in California saw a huge boost in its construction market even during the recession, largely because of a PACE program there.
Implementation of PACE was halted last year, however, by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which prohibited Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages on properties with the PACE lien because of concerns over creating competing liens.
The PACE Protection Act of 2011 would prevent that agency from discriminating against mortgages with the loans. It would also set requirements designed to protect mortgages backed by Fannie and Freddie.
Warwick Town Supervisor Mike Sweeton said Hayworth's announcement marked a critical shift in support for the program, which his town considers vital to its energy-reduction drive. "I think this is the kind of log-jam breaking we've been waiting for," he said.