Committee Vote to Restore Climate Change Investments, Advance 21st Century Transportation Network, and Hold Dangerous Drivers Accountable

Budget restores funding for Healthy Homes law and major climate fund, implements STEER Act for street safety, restores cuts to Anacostia River improvement fund, and lays groundwork for further action at full Council to unwind short-sighted budget gimmick threatening to compromise District’s solar marketplace 

Today, the DC Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment will meet at 12:45 pm to vote on budget recommendations for the agencies under its oversight, notably including the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy and Environment. The committee’s budget recommendations include:  

  • Reversing $20 million of cuts to the District’s main climate change fund (the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund) to: 
    • Support programs that reduce carbon emissions and improve health, like the Healthy Homes program that upgrades homes of low- and moderate-income residents with efficient electric heat pumps, stoves, and water heaters, thereby improving indoor air quality and helping them affordably transition away from fossil fuels;
    • Restore most of the DC Green Bank’s zeroed out funding to support low-interest financing for sustainable and affordable housing development and green infrastructure projects, enabling 9:1 private-to-public investments;  
    • Add funding for DC’s Solar for All program for low- and moderate-income families; and  
    • Advance DC’s Building Energy Performance Standards with technical and financial support for commercial-to-residential conversions and affordable apartments; and more.  
  • Funds provisions from Councilmember Allen’s STEER Act to hold dangerous drivers accountable: 1) creates new positions within the Office of Attorney General to bring civil suits against dangerous drivers or their vehicles, and 2) requires the installation of speed governors to the vehicles of people who engage in reckless and dangerous driving. It also requires better coordination between MPD, DDOT, and DMV to prevent issuing parking or speeding tickets against a person whose vehicle was stolen at the time of the ticket.   
  • Advances $217 million to ensure WMATA avoids its fiscal cliff and serious reductions in Metrorail and Metrobus service, and funds Kids Ride Free and Adult Learner Transit Subsidy programs 
  • Restores the zeroed-out plastic bag fee funds dedicated to Anacostia River clean-up and education programs, like the Anacostia Riverkeeper, Living Classrooms and its Kingman Island Rangers program, City Wildlife, and the Anacostia Watershed Society; trash traps to keep garbage out of our waterways; the RiverSmart Homes program to install rain barrels, trees, and gardens at no or low-cost; and green summer workforce training for young people 
  • Gives the green light to dozens of bus priority and safe streets projects to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, including preventing DDOT from moving forward with construction in FY25 on the Connecticut Avenue Safety Project until protected bike lanes are included – consistent with the concept strongly supported by Ward 3 Councilmember Frumin and impacted Ward 3 ANCs 
  • Requires a detailed transition plan and monthly updates from DDOT on winding down DC Circulator operations in collaboration with the Circulator contractor, WMATA, and affected labor unions - ensuring riders, drivers, and neighborhoods aren’t left stranded without bus coverage 

  • Includes $204 million for street paving, $110 million for alley repaving, $127 million for faster sidewalk repair, $109 million for bus priority projects, $32 million for protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements, $10 million for new or upgraded Capital Bikeshare stations, and $500,000 for new vouchers toward the purchase of an e-bike for District residents

On Climate Change and Cuts to Renewable Energy 

“This is a tough budget, but I won’t let DC walk away from fighting the climate crisis. There’s no time left to kick the can. Many families are already trying to do their part, but this is really the government’s job – what we’ve recommended ensures the District stays a national leader, and we won’t leave behind working families who can’t afford to take these steps on their own.  

“I want to be clear about what it would look like not to resolve these deep cuts to our climate programs: it would mean leaving federal money on the table and walking back our promises to tens of thousands of families who would have saved hundreds of dollars each year with free electric heat pumps, stoves, water heaters, and solar panels. It would literally mean more trash in our rivers, an end to low- or no-cost yard improvements that stop runoff into our waterways, and cutting green jobs. And the proposed budget would have stopped financing for green affordable housing in its tracks.  

“Importantly, these programs help us reach our urgent climate goals equitably – not at the expense of lower-income neighbors. Transitioning off fossil fuels indoors means a generation of children in families that can’t afford to make the transition to electric themselves won’t live with a 42% higher risk of asthma and other breathing issues from dangerous indoor air,” said Councilmember Allen. “And together, we’re going to save these programs for an average of just 80 cents to $1.80 per month. Asking this very small “shared sacrifice” will keep us on track to take on climate change - but this wouldn’t have been necessary if the Mayor hadn’t swept or entirely zeroed out these funds to instead use them to pay the District government’s utility bills.” 

On Traffic Safety and Vision Zero 

Councilmember Allen said, “Dangerous drivers need to be held accountable. Today, the Committee’s funding provisions from my STEER Act to give our agencies and our laws additional teeth to do that. We're giving the Attorney General new lawyers to take our biggest ticket scofflaws to court – wherever they live. We’re going to put “speed governors” on cars to limit speeds for people convicted of the crime of reckless driving. And we’re going to close a loophole that lets people who steal your car rack up hundreds of tickets at our expense. These are practical solutions that will save lives.” 

On WMATA Funding, Bus Priority Projects, and Protected Bike Lanes 

Finally, Councilmember Allen said, “This budget advances a 21st Century transit network that’s safer and better for more people – whether you're on Metrorail, bus, bike, walking, rolling, or driving. We aren’t in the 1950s, and our transit system and street design should be safe, affordable, accessible, and reflect the many different ways people get around our city and region.” 

What’s Left for the Full Council to Fix?

Although the Committee restored $20 million in cuts to DOEE’s Sustainable Energy Trust Fund, which supports many of the programs above, there’s still a dangerous proposal in the Budget Support Act that accompanies the budget that allows the Mayor to take even more money – and pull out of the solar market by paying a penalty instead of investing in green energy.  

The Mayor swept $17 million out of the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund (“SETF”) and simultaneously opted the District government out of our renewable energy goals, choosing instead to pay a much higher “alternative compliance fee” to buy non-renewable energy. The fee exists to incentivize people to buy renewables. If this budget maneuver isn’t reversed by the full Council, next year District taxpayers will be paying $4 million more than they should for the same energy usage, while adding 166,000 metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere by choosing to buy non-renewably sourced energy. 

Who do we pay the fee to? Ironically, ourselves. The fee is paid back to the District government and scored by the CFO as “new revenue.” It then flows right into the city’s general coffers. To unwind this complicated money laundering scheme, the Committee would have had to identify $22 million to replace that “new revenue”, plus the original $17 million to replenish the SETF – close to $40 million. Councilmember Allen and the Committee did restore some funding to the SETF in the budget through a small increase in the fee assessed for gas and electricity usage - from which low-income ratepayers can be exempted – but this expensive budget and policy maneuver will still need the Chairman and full Council’s support to undo.  

Mayor’s Devastating Cuts and Legislation Hurt Solar Credit Market 

Opting the DC government out of the solar credit market through the budget gimmick and paying the “alternative compliance fees” noted above will do a lot of damage. Right now, anyone who owns solar panels can sell credits for the excess extra energy they create. Utilities like Pepco and Washington Gas are required by law to make sure a certain percentage of all their energy is sourced from renewables, so they buy credits from solar panel owners – like people who own rooftop solar and churches who have solar panels. Because it cost an additional $22 million, the Committee couldn’t undo the Mayor’s proposed subtitle and restore funding for all of the programs above. 

As one of the bigger consumers of energy, and thus one of the bigger buyers of solar credits in the marketplace, the District government opting out will have an serious impact on the entire market. Sellers within the marketplace are often individual households, Solar for All communities, and churches and businesses who installed solar panels on their private property, anticipating additional income from excess clean energy created. Their credits will drop in value with an artificial drop in demand. 

“Pulling the District government itself out of the solar credit market is going to have serious, negative impacts that will hurt homeowners, businesses, and churches – as well as our climate goals. It’s short-sighted and tells residents and businesses to do as we say, not as we do,” said Councilmember Allen. “Still, this Committee cannot undo the budget gimmick alone, which essentially double counts the money – while it was a $17 million sweep just this fiscal year, it would be double that amount to undo. I'm going to work with the Chairman and my colleagues at the full Council to reverse this disastrous decision and ensure the District government is a leader, not a hypocrite, on our climate goals.” 

The Committee is chaired by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, with Councilmembers Matt Frumin, Christina Henderson, Janeese Lewis George, and Zachary Parker as members. 


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