Guilt Over Wasting Energy During War Inspires 2 Bills


March 13, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

When Uncle Sam sent her brother to the Persian Gulf last year, Nita Settina looked around her Anne Arundel County home with guilt.

Shesaw drafty windows, a faulty thermostat and other wastes of energy.

"Energy conservation suddenly became very important to me," Settina told state lawmakers yesterday. "Instead of tying a yellow ribbon outside my house, I gave my house an energy audit. I turned down the thermostat. I put sheets of plastic up to seal the windows."

Settina urged members of the Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee to pass legislation that would require the state to do like wise.

Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad, D-Annapolis, has introduced two billsaimed at making the state more energy conscious. One would require the state to cut energy use in its offices, warehouses and other buildings by 50 percent within the next 20 years. The other would require the state to begin using more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.

"Instead of tying a big yellow bow around the state capital building, if we really want to welcome home our troops, we'll pass this legislation because this is really what it's been all about," said Settina, legislative liaison for the Sierra Club's Potomac Chapter.

"If anything, (the Persian Gulf conflict) was an oil war, and yet our nation isconsuming more and more foreign oil every day," Winegrad said. "Thisis an exercise in economic and environmental patriotism."

The Schaefer administration supports reductions in energy consumptions in state buildings. But Gary Thorpe, state director of energy programs, asked the committee to scale back the bill's long-range goals, which hesaid may be too expensive.

At a relatively small cost, the state can cut its energy use by 25 percent within 10 years, largely by using more efficient lighting, Thorpe said. Those cuts would save up to $40 million a year in lighting, heating and air-conditioning expenses,he said.

The administration has included a $500,000 revolving loan fund in the proposed $11 billion budget to change the lighting fixtures at state buildings during the next six years, Thorpe said.

"One of the biggest problems we have in our state agencies is getting people to turn the lights off," Thorpe said. "Lights are left on all the time. We're about to come down on that like a ton of bricks."

"Right now, those of us who are energy auditors walk into state buildings and cringe," said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, director of Maryland CleanWater Action. "It's a crime the amount of energy we are sending up the chimney."

Although Connecticut passed similar legislation last year, the

Schaefer administration opposes Winegrad's second bill, which would set minimum fuel efficiency standards for new cars and light trucks purchased by the state. The bill would require 29 miles per gallon for cars and 24 mpg for trucks purchased after Jan. 1, 1993.By Jan. 1, 2000, it would mandate 45 mpg for cars and 35 mpg for trucks.

If locked into those standards, the state might be unable purchase the trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles it needs, said John Duchez, director of management audits for the Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning.

In other legislative action:

* Voting 16-6 last Friday, the House Environmental Matters Committee rejected a bill -- introduced by Delegate Michael Busch, D-Annapolis -- that would have expanded the legal definition of the Severn River. Environmentalists sought the expanded definition to protect sensitive streams in St. Margarets and Lower Broadneck.

* The House Judiciary Committee defeated a bill, 19-1, that would have required the State Highway Administration to establish uniform speed zones around a school at a county's request. Delegate Joan Cadden, D-Brooklyn Park, introduced the bill for the state Parent-Teachers Association.

New committee member Phillip Bissett, R-Mayo, voted against it.

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