Congress Scrutinizes Biden Attempts to Stamp Out Fossil Fuels in New Buildings

House hearing to scrutiny how Biden policies threatening the 'American dream of homeownership'

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May 22, 2024

The Biden administration is facing scrutiny from Congress over a new wave of green energy policies that could increase consumer utility costs and threaten the energy grid, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.), who chairs the panel's energy subcommittee, penned a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Wednesday morning, expressing concern over regulations phasing out fossil fuel reliance in new and renovated federal buildings.

According to the Republican leaders, the regulations—which the Department of Energy finalized in late April—effectively ban the use of fossil fuels from new and remodeled federal buildings and, notably, apply to multi-family high-rise and low-rise residential housing projects.

"This rule is an abuse of the DOE’s authority, the latest attempt to advance the Biden administration’s radical climate agenda, and the rule threatens grid reliability," McMorris Rodgers and Duncan wrote in the letter. "Policies that seek to ban the use of affordable and reliable fossil fuels and increase the use of electricity, will add unnecessary strain on an already overburdened electrical grid."

"This comes at a time where rush to green policies are forcing the premature retirement of the nation’s most affordable and reliable coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants, leaving the grid vulnerable to weather dependent and unstable renewable sources," the Republican leaders continued.

The DOE justified its actions by pointing to the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which ordered the agency to improve U.S. energy security by improving the efficiency of federal buildings. However, the law gave the DOE until December 2008 to issue the regulations, meaning the Biden administration ultimately moved forward with the mandate more than 15 years after the congressional deadline.

In addition, McMorris Rodgers and Duncan noted that the DOE's own analysis of the regulations show its regulations will substantially increase energy consumption. And they added that greater reliance on natural gas—which experienced a production boom after the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed—has led to major emission reductions across economic sectors.

In 2007, roughly 21 percent of total U.S. electricity was generated by natural gas while in 2023 more than 43 percent was generated by natural gas, according to federal data. In that same timespan, the nation's total greenhouse gas emissions declined nearly 16 percent and the power sector's emissions declined 36 percent.

"Using the 'whole-of-government' approach to prioritize electrification over reliability, affordability, and national security is irresponsible," the letter concluded. "The DOE should remain committed to its core mission of ensuring America’s security and prosperity, not adhering to a rush to green agenda that further burdens the taxpayer and strains our electric grid."

The letter comes as the House Energy and Commerce Committee prepares to hold a hearing Wednesday afternoon to broadly examine how green energy policies are threatening the "American dream of homeownership."

A committee GOP aide told the Free Beacon that the hearing will aim to highlight multiple green building policies at the federal and state level. And the hearing will further show how federal agencies are collaborating with mainly Democrat-led local governments to implement such climate regulations targeting housing, the aide said.

For example, the White House recently finalized actions mandating that homes financed with Federal Housing Administration or Department of Agriculture mortgages—which are designed to help low-income families—must be built to the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code. According to the National Association of Home Builders, that code could make a new home as much as $31,000 more expensive because of the technological upgrades.

The Department of Energy is also leveraging $1 billion earmarked under the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act to help local jurisdictions adopt the 2021 conservation code for new home construction. While the decision to adopt the code is voluntary, the GOP aide said the Biden administration's actions are coercing more local governments to move forward with it.

At the same time, several Democrat-led cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City, collectively home to more than 12 million Americans, have already enacted restrictions or bans on natural gas hookups. The Department of Justice notably defended a gas hookup ban enacted by the city of Berkeley, California, in court last year.

"We are focusing on how these green building policies coupled with restrictive natural gas policies are all contributing to the increased cost of homeownership," a second GOP aide told the Free Beacon.

The median price of homes sold nationwide is $420,800, according to the latest Federal Reserve data, up 13 percent compared to early 2021.

The Department of Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.