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'Rural Star' bill passes House
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U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello of the 5th District holds Solutia film affected by the “Rural Star� bill. (Contributed photo)

Friday, September 17, 2010


Rural homeowners could get loans of about $3,000 to $7,500 to make their homes more energy-efficient under legislation the House passed Thursday.

Democrats, who pushed through the bill on a mainly partyline vote, said the loan program would promote construction jobs, boost American manufacturers and help bring down rural energy costs. It passed 240-172 and now must be considered by the Senate.

The bill was co-sponsored by House Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina and Rep. Tom Perriello of the 5th District.

The bill authorizes the spending of $993 million over five years to cover the cost of the program, although supporters said it would be paid for through repayment of the loans.

 Under the legislation, the Agriculture Department would make zero-interest loans to rural electric co-ops, which in turn would make loans to qualified consumers at interest rates not to exceed 3 percent. The loans would be repaid over 10 years on the consumers' utility bills, with savings from the energy upgrades covering much of the cost.

 Clyburn and Perriello said more than 90 percent of the materials used in the program - caulking, hot water heaters, sealants, windows and doors - are made in America.

In a news release, Perriello said the bill, dubbed Rural Star, is a companion to the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act (H.R. 5019), which he supported earlier this spring after fighting for an amendment that would cover window film, like that made in Martinsville, as a qualified product.

"I have been evangelical about Rural Star as a way to reduce Americans' electric bills while supporting American construction jobs and American-manufactured products, like insulation and window films," Perriello said in the release. "Now both parties have become believers in this common sense way to help rural families and seniors save money on their electric bills and increase home values."�

 The program is part of a series of bills that House Democrats are promoting to promote manufacturing and keep jobs in America. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the initiative would create as many as 40,000 jobs a year in the construction industry.

 The measure also includes a loan program that Republicans succeeded in stripping out when the House passed the Home Star energy efficiency program last May. Home Star, also known as Cash for Caulkers, would make many homeowners eligible for thousands and dollars in rebates for carrying out energy-efficient renovations to their homes. The Home Star bill has yet to be considered by the Senate.

 Republicans contended that the Rural Star duplicated an existing Department of Energy program to help families weatherize their homes.

"I don't see the need for another program," said Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee.


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