Skip to content

Archive for May, 2017

25
May

Mayor Bowser’s Green Bank Bill!

Thu May 25, 2017 at 02:41:37 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Global Green USA

Mayor Bowser wants to make Washington, DC, the first city in the United States (and second in the world) to create a Green Bank!

Mark your calendars. On June 23rd at noon, join the DC Environmental Network (DCEN) for our monthly networking event.

We are putting together a special briefing on Mayor Bowser’s legislation to create a Green Bank in the District. This DCEN event will be hosted by the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) at 1200 First Street NE, 5th Floor. You can RSVP here!

To present and answer questions, we have assembled the following panel:

– Tommy Wells, Director, Department of Energy and Environment

– Sarah Dougherty, Green Finance Manager, Natural Resources Defense Council

– Larry Martin, Advisory Committee, DC Public Banking  Center AND representing DC chapter of the Sierra Club

– Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network, Global Green USA (Moderator)

Background:

On April 25, 2017, Councilmember Mendelson introduced Mayor Bowser’s Green Bank bill, B22-0257, the District of Columbia Green Finance Authority Establishment Act of 2017. This legislation would create the District of Columbia Green Finance Authority (“DC Green Bank”) to increase the availability of financing for energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy, clean transportation vehicles and infrastructure, stormwater management, sustainable projects and programs, water efficiency, and green infrastructure projects in the District.

You can RSVP here to attend this DCEN briefing!

DCEN is convening this briefing to help the DC sustainability community, and anyone who is interested, learn about this exciting new proposal. Some areas that will be covered:

1. What is a Green Finance Authority (Green Bank)?

2. What other jurisdictions around the world are utilizing this finance mechanism?

3. How would the District’s Green Bank work and enhance our current finance setup?

4. There is a local Public Bank movement in the District. The Council is considering funding a DC Public Bank Feasibility Study in the next fiscal year. What is the relationship between a public bank and a green bank? Do they have overlapping elements?

5. For over a year and a half, DCEN has been involved in discussions focused on putting a price on carbon in the District. Several participants have asked whether some of the collected revenue could be used in support of a green finance authority? How might this work and what might be a meaningful contribution looking forward?

Please RSVP here if you would like to attend!

Definition of Green Bank:

“A Green Bank is a public or quasi-public institution that finances the deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other clean energy and green infrastructure projects in partnership with private lenders. They are an institutional platform for public-private partnerships (“PPP” or “P3”). Green Banks are capitalized with public funds, which are then used to offer loans, leases, credit enhancements and other financing services to close gaps in the private capital markets for clean energy projects. Green Banks typically invest in the project deployment of mature, commercially viable technologies – not in early stage tech or in clean energy companies. The goal of a Green Bank is to accelerate the deployment of clean energy by removing the upfront cost of adoption, leveraging greater private investment in clean energy, and increasing the efficiency of public dollars.” – District of Columbia Green Bank Report, DOEE, April 3, 2017

Additional background materials:

Legislative Summary, Bill History, Introduction, Other Documents.

Green Bank 101

District of Columbia Green Bank Report, April 3, 2017

Hope to see you June 23rd at Noon!

20
May

Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act of 2017

Sat May 20, 2017 at 02:59:01 PM EST

By Chris Weiss, DC Environmental Network

Mark your calendars! Join DCEN on Friday, June 2nd, at Noon!

How a DC Council Leaf Blower Bill Can Help Protect the Health of DC Families!

On April 4th, Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced Bill 22-0234, the “Leaf Blower Regulation Amendment Act of 2017.” This bill’s intent is to “amend the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations to prohibit the sale and use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers in the District of Columbia by January 1, 2022.” This bill was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Allen, Grosso, McDuffie, and Bonds.

On June 2nd at NOON, join the DC Environmental Network for our monthly networking opportunity. We will focus on Councilmember Cheh’s bill, and other local and national efforts, to phase out noisy, polluting two-stroke gas engines (leaf blowers) in the United States. RSVP HERE!

This event will be held at the offices of Friends of the Earth and Green Cross International, 1101 15th Street NW, 11th Floor. All are welcome. RSVP HERE!

Our panel will include representatives from Quiet Clean D.C., a volunteer public health non-profit group based in Washington DC. From their website:

Look forward to seeing you on June 2nd.

 

19
May

Budget Update: DC Environment had a Good Day!

Fri May 19, 2017 at 02:53:26 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Global Green USA

Wednesday was a good day for the District!

DC Environmental Network:

Last Wednesday, the DC Council Committee on Transportation & Environment took a very important step towards supporting recycling programs, helping DC families in need, and restoring the Anacostia River.

After the DC Environmental Network (DCEN) convened budget briefings on Mayor Bowser’s proposed FY18 Budget, at both the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and the District Department of Public Works (DPW), as well as testifying at two performance oversight and two budget oversight hearings for the same agencies, DCEN had to decide what our budget advocacy priorities would be.

In the end, we decided to work towards restoring funding and staff to DC recycling programs, restoring funding to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and restoring funds slated to be used for Anacostia River restoration efforts. 

We are so very pleased to report that at the Committee on Transportation and the Environment mark-up of Mayor Bowser’s budget, the sustainability community made progress on every single budget goal and restored over $7.5 million dollars to important, proven, programs that are designed to help all of us live healthy and happy lives. Here are some details:

We even made progress in other areas including funding for a new composting facility and a new environmentally focused position (staff lawyer) at the Office of Attorney General. It was a very good day for the sustainability community.

It was clear as DCEN watched the budget mark-up that committee Chairperson Cheh, and Councilmember’s Allen, Evans, McDuffie, and Todd, had all done their homework, and were working hard to do a good job. The results were commendable and we are all very thankful for their efforts.

The Council still has to hold two more votes on the entire budget. The first vote of the full Council will be on May 30th, the final vote will be June 1st. Both votes will begin at 10:00 AM, and be held at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Room 500. I am hoping some of you can join me in support of our budget goals.

DCEN will continue to monitor Council budget actions and make sure our changes survive the next few weeks. Thanks for all your help.

Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network, Global Green USA

 

15
May

Restore $5 million for Anacostia River!

Mon May 15, 2017 at 01:06:50 PM EST

by Chris Weiss, Global Green USA

DC Council: Restore $5 million in FY18 capital funds for Anacostia River clean-up projects!

DC Environmental Network:

As many of you know, Mayor Bowser removed $5 million in FY18 capital funds that were targeted for hazardous material remediation of the Anacostia River bottom sediments and the contaminated land areas adjacent (particularly to Ward 8’s Poplar Point and Ward 7’s Kenilworth North).

Now many of us are scrambling trying to figure out if we have enough leverage to convince the Council to restore these important funds.

We should not have to be doing this. 

We should not have to be advocating, again, for funds that had already been committed to help with the cleanup, the remediation of toxic sediments. Not now, not after so much work by so many, over too many years. The river, and adjacent, arguably too often forgotten communities, have been waiting far too long to see some measurable progress and experience a modicum of well deserved economic and environmental justice.

The DC Environmental Network, and many other DC citizens, river advocates, and organizations, should not have to repeat our efforts and use our limited time and resources to do what we thought had already been done.

Since 1996 the DC Environmental Network has never stopped working to restore and protect the Anacostia River that runs through many DC neighborhoods. We have worked hard to reduce the untreated sewage, polluted runoff, and trash, that makes its way into our rivers and creeks.

The last three years the DC Environmental Network has been part of Mayor Bowser’s Leadership Council for a Cleaner Anacostia River. When we meet we have been engaged in briefings and discussions on the Anacostia River Sediment Project as it moves towards it’s June 30th, 2018, Record of Decision (ROD) requirement. By this date a remedy for remediation of contaminated sediment in the Anacostia River must be chosen. This is a very important milestone in this lengthy process.

With the upcoming Record of Decision, the timing of this $5 million dollar cut to important river remediation efforts could not be worse. Additionally, this spending cut may be putting budget pressures on other important Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) programs as the District scrambles to fulfill its statutory requirements.

Our budget request:

The DC Environmental Network hopes the DC Council can figure out how to restore the $5 million in capital budget dollars for the Anacostia River. 

The bad news is that looming federal budget cuts, unecessary, scheduled tax relief for some of the largest, wealthiest, most successful DC businesses, and other factors, are creating a budget climate that makes finding $5 million a challenge.

The good news is one of our biggest Anacostia River champions, Councilmember Mary Cheh, is working hard to try to replace these funds.

[Photograph (L to R): Malusi Kitchen, Rev. Keith Kitchen (Zion Baptist Church of Eastland Gardens), Sheridan Fuller (Parkside Civic Association), and Russell Klein (Parkside Civic Association), testify in support of restoration of the $5 million.]

We believe if the Council pulls together and supports her efforts, the District can make progress restoring the Anacostia River, and bring more economic and environmental justice to the people who live along its banks.

[If you have not already, let DC Councilmember’s Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie, Charles Allen, and Brandon Todd, who are members of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, know you support restoring the $5 million. The mark-up for this committee is May 17th at 4:00 PM, in room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building. Hope to see you there!]

 

13
May

Restore LIHEAP for Safe & Healthy Families!

Sat May 13, 2017 at 01:19:23 PM EST

by C. Weiss, DC Environmental Network

DC Council: Keep families safe and healthy by adding $3 million to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

DC Environmental Network:

The DC Environmental Network (DCEN) testified yesterday at the DC Council Committee of the Whole Public Hearing on DC Mayor Bowser’s budget. Our two goals:

1. Expressing solidarity with our progressive colleagues!

One reason DCEN showed up was to show solidarity with other progressive organizations and advocates in opposition to tax cuts for million-dollar estates and big businesses. With so many more important needs, like housing, schools, child and health care, and of course, our environmental sustainability agenda to save our city and the planet, we feel strongly that we should not tie our hands with unnecessary tax cuts. And with the District becoming increasingly unaffordable, struggling residents need help today!

2. Opposing cuts to LIHEAP. Supporting adding $3 million to make program whole.

Another reason to show up to testify was to express support for a program administered by our very own Department of Energy and the Environment (DOEE) called the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). DCEN opposes Mayor Bowser’s cuts to the program and recommends the DC Council add $3 million in local dollars, to help ensure the success of next year’s program. At the hearing DCEN stated:

“The DC Environmental Network has always appreciated DOEE’s efforts to help District residents use less energy and generate on-site clean energy. We have always thought the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, to “provide direct financial assistance and discounts to low-income residents to help offset their energy bills” is a critical enhancement to their work. It has seemed, with little exception, that almost every year, DCEN and others, have had to ask that you make changes to the budget to make sure that District residents who qualify and need help with their energy bills, can look to LIHEAP for some assistance. We were very proud to hear that in a recent year, I believe Fiscal Year 2016, the District did not have to turn away families in need of help. It felt like we had finally committed to making this program work. Today the need for LIHEAP is just as great, maybe even greater, and not being able to pay an energy bill can start a tragic downward spiral that can drastically hurt District families. The DC Environmental strongly supports increasing funding to LIHEAP by $3 million dollars.”

With all the major budget issues before the Council, including funding important housing, paid leave, and school programs, we are hoping the DC Council will not forget the important role LIHEAP plays in the District’s social safety net. 

We know and appreciate that Councilmember Cheh, who chairs the Committee on Transportation and Environment (DOEE), and has DOEE oversight, is working hard to figure how to make LIHEAP whole in 2018.

The DC Environmental Network is doing what we can to support this goal.

Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network, Global Green USA

 

10
May

Help Restore DC Recycling Funds!

Wed May 10, 2017 at 05:20:44 PM EST

By Chris Weiss, DC Environmental Network

Budget Focus: Help Restore Recycling Funds to DPW!

DC Environmental Network:

In just one week, the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment will hold a budget mark-up for the Department of Public Works.

The DC Environmental Network’s primary goal at this mark-up is to restore $447,000 in funds slashed from District recycling programs by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. These recycling cuts include the elimination of two DPW Office of Waste Diversion staff positions and additional monies for moving important recycling programs forward.

There is quite a bit at stake at this mark-up. Here’s why:

Since 2014, under two administrations, Councilmember Cheh has been engaged in a reorganization of the District’s waste management priorities. When it comes to recycling, the District of Columbia has long been a regional underachiever with waste diversion (recycling) rates holding steady around 25% (if that) even as surrounding jurisdictions record diversion rates closer to 60%. Not a good place for our nation’s capital city!

In 2014 Councilmember Cheh introduced the “Sustainable Solid Waste Management Amendment Act of 2014” designed to modify how the District develops its solid waste priorities and update how the District manages its solid waste system. Important to recycling, this law created the Office of Waste Diversion. This is an office that should be focusing a lot of attention on the idea of sustainable waste diversion, and how DC might someday have a respectable recycling rate.

On July 14, 2014, this law, was unanimously passed by the entire DC Council and signed soon after by former Mayor Vincent Gray. Supporters included Councilmember’s Cheh, McDuffie, Alexander, Bonds, Catania, Evans, Grosso, Orange, Wells, Barry, Chairman Mendelson, and even Mayor Muriel Bowser, the last year of her time as a Councilmember.

Which makes it all that much more surprising that for the last two budget cycles, Mayor Bowser has chosen to weaken DPW’s Office of Waste Diversion by not filling important positions and undermining the office’s ability to make meaningful progress in overhauling our failed recycling programs.

What does the Office of Waste Diversion need these resources for?

The good news is that despite the lack of commitment to recycling by the Executive, as reflected by budget priorities, for the first time in decades, DPW has a Director that believes in it. DPW Director Shorter has started to put in place a good team at the Office of Waste Diversion, and the agency is doing a decent job of taking care of their statutory requirements. DCEN believes that transparency, and the quality of implementation of existing programs, has improved the last two years. But that is not enough!

DCEN believes that what is on the table now is not enough to make the necessary changes that will result in meaningful improvements to recycling in the District.

The Office of Waste Diversion needs more staff to start doing the research and planning necessary to move the District towards being a zero-waste city.

That’s why we are asking the Council to restore funding for two Office of Waste Diversion staffers, as well as restoring nonpersonel funds that could be used for research and planning.

To help Mayor Bowser make progress before her first term is up, we are also asking that some of the nonpersonel funds be used to put a Request for Proposals (RFP) out to plan and implement a Save As You Throw pilot. Save As You Throw is a usage pricing model for disposing of municipal solid waste, that could help District ratepayers save money, reduce green-house gas emissions, and increase DC per capita recycling rates.

[Restoring recycling funds will help the District do the planning necessary to see if Save as You Throw (or PAYT as shown in graphic) can help improve the District’s recycling rate. Graphic by: WasteZero, April 2017]

 

This would be a meaningful step towards researching what recycling improvement options are available to the District. We believe a Save As You Throw pilot could help us do a better job of planning our zero-waste future.

What can we all do to help restore funds for recycling?

To start, please consider signing the petition that zero waste advocates will be delivering to the DC Council next week. If you are interested in doing more, contact me at 202-380-3440 or email cweiss@globalgreen.org.

We need to get this done in the next seven days!

Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network 

7
May

The District’s Unsustainable Budget!

Sun May 07, 2017 at 05:09:24 PM EST

By Chris Weiss, DC Environmental Network

DC Environmental Network:

We have an unsustainable budget and need your help!

As many of you know we are right in the middle of the District’s budget season. Mayor Muriel Bowser has sent her budget to the DC Council, the DC Council has already held most of their budget hearings, and now a mad scurry has begun to try and quickly decide what the Council’s budget priorities are and what changes need to be made. In just ten days the eleven different Council committee’s will begin marking up their share of the overall budget, and soon after that, the full Council will vote twice on the entire budget.

The DC Environmental Network (DCEN) has tried to give you opportunities to learn about the piece of the budget pie you care about the most. DCEN and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, held two special budget briefings, one with the Department of Public Works, and the other with the Department of Energy and the Environment. Around 20 different environmental organizations, and a number of individual advocates participated.

The DC Environmental Network testified at two Council budget hearings and shared our initial thoughts, based on the information we had so far, on how the District should spend our shared tax dollars. Here is the testimony:

District Department of Public Works, April 26, 2017

District Department of Energy and Environment, April 28, 2017

DCEN has received over 150 phone calls and emails, from other District environmental organizations and advocates, asking how federal spending might impact our local programs. We have done the best we can to give folks our perspective, although the lack of transparency, by much of the Legislative and Executive Branch, makes us have to work far harder than we should to get the most basic information. (The budget documents are often cryptic and we have been told, contain a healthy number of typos.)

Regardless we have identified a number of budget priorities we want to point out and hope the environmental community will, over the next ten days, engage the Council and let them know we care. DCEN has already been walking the halls of the Council’s Wilson Building, asking questions, and advocating for our sustainability goals. Our main concerns include:

– Restoring DC Recycling Programs: Mayor Bowser eliminated two full time jobs and other funds from DPW’s Office of Waste Diversion (OWD). OWD is the office that is primarily in charge of recycling programs and is focused on trying to move the District away from being the worst recycler in the region. We are requesting that the DC Council restore funding for the two Office of Waste Diversion staff (FTE’s) as well as all the nonpersonel funds that were slashed from their budget. We are also requesting that the DC Council direct DPW to use some of the restored non-personal funds to plan and implement a Save As You Throw (SAYT) pilot in 2018.

– Restoring $3 Million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Funds: Every year the District and federal government make LIHEAP money available to help low income District residents who cannot pay their energy bills. This program is administered by DOEE. DCEN has been told that in order for the District to minimally duplicate the last fiscal years help, the Council will have to find an additional $3 million dollars. DCEN is particularly concerned about these funds this year because the poverty focused non-profits that normally engage in advocacy on LIHEAP currently have too many other budget shortfalls to deal with. DCEN is going to try and do what we can to restore these funds.  Currently it does not look good, and the District may end up telling District residents, at a time of critical need, that there are no more funds.

– Restoring $5 Million in Capital Funds for Anacostia River Clean-Up: Mayor Bowser removed $5 million capital budget dollars that were targeted for hazardous material remediation of the Anacostia River bottom sediments and the contaminated land areas adjacent (particularly to Ward 8’s Poplar Point and Ward 7’s Kenilworth North). With upcoming clean-up requirements looming, the timing of this reduction could not be worse. Additionally, this cut may create budget pressures on other important DOEE programs as the District scrambles to fulfill its statutory requirements. The DC Environmental Network primarily recommends that the Council try and restore the $5 million capital budget dollars. We also support the efforts of other organizations to, ideally, recommend finding additional capital dollars, possibly as much as $10 million, to continue progress on all remediation projects.

As you can see we have our work cut out for us. Luckily, we are coordinating with a number of DC focused organizations in trying to impact all of these budget items. We could also use some help from you!

DCEN is going to be down at the Wilson Building every day prior to the committee mark-ups. If you want to help us at scheduled meetings and office visits, give us a call at 202-754-7088 or email cweiss@globalgreen.org. Hope you can join us.

Chris Weiss, Executive Director, DC Environmental Network