US President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed legislation that would fund emergency assistance to various states, partly through the trimming of $1.5 billion in funding for renewable energy loan guarantees. The US House of Representatives approved the bill (H.R. 1586) hours earlier, largely along party lines. The Senate approved an identical version on August 5.
The bill would provide $26 billion to states to pay for thousands of teachers, policemen, firefighters and other government workers.
It would offset these expenditures with a number of revenue increases and spending reductions, including the cut to the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program. Federal budget rules allow the $1.5 billion to support a maximum of $15 billion in loan guarantee authority.
Renewable energy groups have protested the rescission since it was unveiled last week by leading Senate Democrats as part of a broader compromise aimed at securing the support of Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. The two Republicans’ support allowed the measure to pass the Senate.
But renewable energy advocates say that $2 billion was borrowed from the same $6 billion fund in 2009 to pay for another unrelated program–the so-called “Cash for Clunkers” rebate program for vehicles. The money was never replenished despite promises from lawmakers and the White House it would be.
“These two cuts will significantly undermine the DOE loan guarantee program,” said the heads of five prominent renewable energy associations in a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the eve of the vote. Renewable groups estimate that loan guarantee dollars spur up to 10 times the value in investment.
The letter was signed by the leaders of the American Wind Energy Association, the Solar Energy Industries Association, Geothermal Energy Association, National Hydropower Association, and the Biomass Power
The renewable energy industries had hoped to see both chambers of Congress approve a renewable energy standard for electric utilities this congressional year, but it stalled because of insufficient support in the Senate.
The five used their letter to Pelosi to plug an extension of a Department of Treasury grant program approved as part of 2009’s economic stimulus law, saying that it and other pro-renewable policies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs.