The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is delighted that the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives June 26, provides for a multifaceted approach to reduce energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gasses. This landmark legislation includes many strategies that ASLA has championed.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the “Waxman-Markey” bill after the bill’s authors, Representatives Henry A. Waxman (CA) and Edward J. Markey (MA), incorporates two separate pieces of legislation that ASLA helped shape: the Energy Conservation Through Trees Act and the Green Resources For Energy Efficient Neighborhoods (GREEN) Act. The legislation has been crafted as an energy bill that aims “to create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.”
Representative Doris Matsui’s (CA) Energy Conservation through Trees Act explicitly cites the benefits of proper tree siting, including stormwater management, reduced energy load demand, and carbon sequestration. The legislation would establish a grant program to assist electricity providers in planting shade trees to insulate residential buildings and minimize home heating and cooling demands. The provisions specifically recognize the important role landscape architects can play in energy conservation and includes several ASLA-recommended provisions, including establishing an education and information campaign to encourage residents to maintain their shade trees over a long term; requiring monitoring and reporting on the survival, growth, overall health, and estimated savings of the provided trees; and requiring tree recipients to provide stewardship and care of the trees.
As members of these advisory committees, landscape architects will give advice and help develop guidelines including determining the appropriate location of trees; suggesting appropriate, noninvasive species for planting; monitoring and collecting data on energy conservation and carbon sequestration from new plantings; and educating the public on the benefits of shade trees.
The GREEN Act, authored by Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO), allows mortgage companies to issue energy efficient mortgages, and location efficient mortgages, both of which offer incentives for reducing energy consumption. The GREEN Act also establishes energy efficient standards for residences constructed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Most notably, Section 14 of the bill requires HUD to employ the use of green roofs, tree canopy coverage, and other site planning techniques to help reduce energy use in certain HUD facilities. The bill requires that future HUD projects minimize the impact of construction on existing landscapes, build green roofs on new buildings, and establish a goal of minimum green space and tree canopy cover. Moreover, the legislation requires HUD to consult specifically with ASLA on these techniques and practices.
Additionally, the Waxman-Markey bill recognizes the link between greenhouse gas emissions and the transportation sector. The legislation would allow states to use up to 10 percent of the allowances they receive to fund clean-transportation initiatives, such as transit and bike facilities.
ASLA is encouraged that the American Clean Energy and Security Act recognizes the effectiveness of landscape architectural techniques included in ASLA’s Statement on Climate Change, such as establishing tree canopies that sequester carbon, locating plantings to insulate buildings, and using native plant species.