U.S. HOUSE APPROVES ENERGY REDUCTION REBATES

News Release

Office of Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin American Samoa Government Pago Pago, American Samoa May 12, 2010

In American Samoa, Congressman Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin announced this week that on May 6, 2010 the House, by a vote of 246-161, passed H.R. 5019, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010.

Backed by President Obama, the bill contains several measures that will facilitate energy conservation in homes across the nation; create more jobs in the home construction and remodeling industries; promote domestic energy efficient products and equipment; and offer financing for homeowners to improve energy efficiency in homes.

"I am pleased that this piece of legislation will continue support for families across the nation and the U.S. Territories. Every day, families are facing tough choices in the current economic crisis.

The bill that the House passed will go a long way toward reducing energy and utility costs and help those struggling to make ends meet," Faleomavaega said.

Depending on their needs, a family in American Samoa could receive rebates in one of the two separate tracks available under this bill:

•For simple upgrades, rebates are available under the Silver Star track. A family could receive up to US$3,000 worth of discounts for the installation of specific energy-saving materials including insulation, duct sealing, windows and doors, air sealing, and water heaters; and

•for more comprehensive retrofit work, rebates are available under the Gold Star track. Up to US$8,000 in discounts are available to do a wide-ranging energy audit and to install a full complement of energy-efficient measures for the entire home.

Financing is also available to help families pay for energy-efficient improvements in their homes. Federal funds are available to qualified banks or financing institutions to shore up their lending programs to help families pay for energy savings projects.

Overall, H.R. 5019 fulfills several policy objectives. In addition to cutting energy and utility costs for families across the country, it will also promote energy-efficient equipment and materials that are manufactured in the United States.

Moreover, increase in demand for retrofit works and remodeling services will provide substantial opportunities for employment in the construction and remodeling industries.

"Much remains to be seen on how certain measures of H.R. 5019 are to be administered and implemented for American Samoa. For one thing, the Department of Energy is to select a qualified rebate aggregator in the Territory to distribute rebates to eligible applicants and also receive reimbursements from the federal government. I suspect that the Territorial Energy Office (TEO) is to serve in this role," Faleomavaega noted.

Samoa News contacted the local Territorial Energy Office about the bill and a TEO official noted that the bill "sounds great" for American Samoa, if passed.

The official noted that people in the Territory can currently take advantage of the State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program that has been initiated by TEO. It is a Department of Energy program funded by the stimulus bill or the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The program allows buyers of energy efficient appliances to redeem rebates directly with local participating retailers—the rebate voucher must be applied for by the buyer with the TEO, and then the voucher is given to the vendor or retailer selling the appliance.

Retailers that are a part of the program are Computer Based Training (CBT), Transpac and Computer Sensitive Language (CSL). These vendors responded to the TEO invitation for a meeting that discussed the rebate program and gave out an agreement for their review and signature— allowing for any issues to be discussed within a deadline, which was Earth Day— April 22.

A TEO advertisement running in today’s issue of Samoa News explains that "the Territorial Energy Office is now offering the STATE ENERGY EFFICIENT APPLIANCE REBATE PROGRAM (SEEARP) to the residents of American Samoa."

It says: Stop by our office in Tafuna, next to the Election Office and apply for a rebate voucher(s). Use the voucher(s) to get dollars off any of these appliances:

The Tafuna TEO office is open from 7:30am until 4pm weekdays.

"Similarly, another measure requires that contractors that do retrofit work and remodeling services are to be trained or become certified under the Home Star program. Otherwise, they are to receive prior authorization from the Secretary of Energy," said the Congressman.

"Finally, there is also a provision that provides for local government to institute some sort of quality assurance program to check retrofit works and remodeling services funded under the rebate program," Faleomavaega said.

"To ensure smooth transition overall, H.R. 5019 gives authorization to the Secretary of Energy to issue regulations as necessary.

My hope is for the Secretary at some point during the rulemaking process to consult with the American Samoa Government to ensure that there is efficient implementation of the Territory’s rebate program," he continued.

"I am glad nevertheless that the federal government is doing its share to help families save on their energy bills, and also create more jobs in the Territory and throughout the United States.

The Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010 is now on its way to the Senate for its consideration and I will continue to follow this matter closely," Faleomavaega concluded.

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