The Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) continues to press members of Congress on funding for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program and climate change legislation. A USCM delegation met with senators in late July to discuss the issues as the first part in a series of efforts to push for a climate protection bill.

In the July 28 meeting with members of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee — which will be designing the Senate Climate Change Bill — the USCM delegates discussed the role that cities and metro areas play in climate change. "The nation's mayors are here to support strong and comprehensive climate change legislation," USCM Vice President Burnsville, Minn., Mayor Elizabeth Kautz told committee chairperson Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. "It is extremely important for Congress to act this year given the growing urgency of global warming. Cities must be part of the solution if we have any hope of solving this problem."

The mayors discussed local initiatives they have passed as part of USCM's Climate Protection Agreement, including changing building codes to make them energy efficient, installing LED traffic lights, encouraging new green industries, and promoting green job training. The mayors also discussed the realities they faced with budget shortfalls and the benefits of yearly funding. "We need that 40-year funding commitment, so we can do long-term planning in our communities," USCM Past President and Trenton, N.J., Mayor Douglas Palmer said.

Boxer told the mayors that the EPW Committee would be releasing its bill when Congress returns to session on Sept. 8, and it could pass out of the committee by Sept. 28. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has asked that all the committees that have jurisdiction over climate change legislation meet a Sept. 28 deadline so the various bills can be rolled into comprehensive climate change legislation to be debated by the full Senate in the fall.

The House passed climate change legislation, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, on June 26. The House bill does not include the EECBG program, but instead provides money to the states with some minimum requirements that the states pass through a small portion of their funding to local governments. Continual funding of the EECBG program is a top priority for USCM, and the association is urging all mayors to contact their Congressional delegations in support of climate change legislation with the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program included.

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