April 19, 2018- Washington D.C.– Today the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing entitled “Hearing to Examine Rural Energy Challenges and Opportunities”. Andrew Lyons, the Weatherization and Energy Assistance Program Manager at HopeSource, testified before the committee. HopeSource implements the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), the Department of Health and Human Services’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and a suite of other anti-poverty programs. HopeSource is Community Action Agency in Washington State, part of a nationwide anti-poverty network of over 1,000 such agencies funded under the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). WAP, LIHEAP, and CSBG are managed in Washington by the State Department of Commerce.
In his opening testimony, Mr. Lyons recalled his own rural upbringing and highlighted the critical need for both weatherization and energy assistance in rural communities. Lyons stated:
“More than 40% of homes in the US were built before 1970, when home energy efficiency was barely a concept. This is exacerbated in rural communities where the housing stock tends to be older and more dilapidated.”
Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member on the committee, asked Mr. Lyons about the health benefits of weatherization. He cited an Oak Ridge National Laboratory study that found every $1 of DOE funds returned close to $3 in health and safety benefits. He also noted Washington’s innovative Weatherization Plus Health program, which pairs “healthy homes” measures with the robust energy efficiency measures of the traditional WAP.
Senator Cantwell also emphasized how the WAP provides jobs and workforce development and requested further information about weatherization jobs in Washington. Additionally, Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) asked Mr. Lyons about the unique challenges of the rural housing stock. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) later asked Mr. Lyons about potential policy changes to continue to improve the WAP.
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