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Power Plant Needs Millions for Greening

The acting Architect of the Capitol told a Senate committee on Wednesday that the Capitol Power Plant needs $200 million in improvements to be run most cost-effectively.

Acting AOC Stephen Ayers told the Rules and Administration Committee that the improvements would allow the plant to make its own electricity and would save money in the long term, but committee members seemed unlikely to consider such a large funding request.

“Two hundred million is a tough sell,” ranking member Bob Bennett (R-Utah) told Ayers.

The power plant heats and cools the Capitol complex, but the Capitol’s electricity is provided by Pepco.

The committee hearing was held to discuss energy efficiency and reducing the Senate’s carbon footprint. It follows the Green the Capitol Initiative on the House side.

Jeff Ventura, spokesman for House Chief Administration Officer Dan Beard, declined to compare the Senate’s progress with the House’s.

The 2007 energy bill requires the AOC to reduce the Capitol complex’s energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015, and Ayers testified that the AOC is on target to meet that requirement.

He said energy consumption has been reduced by 6.7 percent since 2003.

The power plant uses coal, natural gas and fuel oil, and committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked Ayers to “look into whether we could reduce Senate greenhouse gas emissions at the Capitol Power Plant by changing the fuel mixture used,” which Ayers quickly agreed to do.

He advocated for $7 million in equipment improvements to increase the power plant’s natural gas capacity, which he said is almost maxed out.

The AOC is striving to phase out coal and fuel oil in favor of more environmentally friendly natural gas.

Ayers pointed to a number of successes his office has had in greening the Senate, including replacing 4,000 light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs and saving more than 900 tons in carbon emissions.

Motion-sensitive lights have been installed, insulation has improved, water consumption has declined and a solar energy source was selected to light parking lot 18, north of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Ayers testified.

He said 2,300 tons of paper was recycled from the House and Senate office buildings in fiscal 2007.

Bennett and Feinstein congratulated Ayers on his success and pledged to work with colleagues on the Appropriations Committee, on which both serve, to secure funding for further greening initiatives.

A number of greening reports are in production at the Government Accountability Office.

“I doubt very much we will take action until we get all the facts,” Feinstein said.

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