Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
July 22, 2010  
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Protect Clean-Energy Initiatives  

Bill Would Resolve Issues Surrounding Property Assessed Clean Energy Program

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Mark Begich (D-AK) today introduced legislation that would protect clean-energy initiatives in California and across the country that are financed through the Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, program.

Senator Boxer said, “The current uncertainty surrounding PACE programs is jeopardizing $110 million in federal investments for California communities, which is simply unacceptable. We must take action to protect these initiatives because they create jobs, save homeowners money on their energy bills and help our environment.”

Senator Merkley said, “Innovative financing programs like PACE are simultaneously supporting a growing clean energy sector, creating jobs and putting more money in the pockets of families and businesses – it’s a job creation trifecta. Innovative energy financing has been a key driver in making Oregon a leader in the clean energy sector and it is crucial that we protect important programs like PACE which help our economy and create jobs.”

Senator Gillibrand said, “Communities in New York and around the country have taken important steps to improve energy efficiency and create good-paying jobs. This important legislation supports these efforts, eliminating some of the obstacles that have been put in place and enabling more communities to keep moving on energy efficiency and green job programs.”

Senator Begich said, “In many cases, the biggest barrier for homeowners and small businesses who want to make energy efficiency improvements is financing those projects. This bill removes a bureaucratic roadblock and allows local communities to assist homeowners and businesses if they want to. It’s another tool in the box that would help Alaskans save on their energy bills.”

PACE financing is an innovative way to create jobs, reduce consumer energy bills and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly half of California’s 58 counties, as well as individual cities, have developed PACE programs or plan to start one.

PACE programs allow homeowners and business owners to pay for energy-efficient property upgrades through a property tax assessment that is repaid over a number of years.

Earlier this month, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, effectively halted PACE programs nationwide by claiming that PACE assessments violate securities agreements by imposing a first lien, ahead of the lenders, on participating properties. The FHFA ordered Fannie and Freddie to take additional actions to limit the use of PACE programs in connection with their home mortgages. This action has prevented California communities from using $110 million in Economic Recovery Act grants intended for PACE programs.

This measure would require lenders to adopt new, sound underwriting standards that support PACE financing programs, rather than stymie them. It would treat PACE assessments the same as other property tax assessments and respect states’ authority to secure such assessments with a first lien.

It is the companion legislation to a measure recently introduced by Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) and more than 20 other members of Congress.