recovery act

Weatherizing: N.H. does good, California not so much

Vice President Joe Biden today extolled a Recovery Act milestone of 200,000 homes weatherized nationwide.

"Thanks to the Recovery Act, thousands of construction workers across the country are now on the job making energy-saving home improvements that will save working families hundreds of dollars a year on their utility bills," he said in a statement.

Biden made his comments while visiting the Manchester, N.H. home of the Dumont family, which is expected to save over $600 a year on its utility bills. The vice president picked New Hampshire because of its success with the program, which is a component of stimulus spending.

He did not choose California for his face to face with the media for good reason. The state has not done well spending Weatherization Assistance Program funds.

Gregory H. Friedman, Department of Energy Inspector General, issued a scathing report earlier this year ripping the state and many others for their lack of distributing money and implementing programs meant to get people jobs. Friedman said of the 43,400 homes California planned to weatherize, just a dozen of them for .03 percent had been retrofitted by the time his report was released Feb. 19.

"Because the consequences of the lack of progress by grantees in the implementation of the Weatherization Program were so significant, we found this data alarming," he said. "In short, the Nation has not, to date, realized the potential economic benefits of the $5 billion in Recovery Act funds allocated to the Weatherization Program."

Of course that was then. The California Community and Services Department has moved forward with other grants to spread the weatherization money, but little of it appears to have hit the street.

Not so in New Hampshire. The Manchester area organization weatherizing Dumont family home has already hired seven new full-time employees and an estimated 68 subcontractors.

Biden said New Hampshire has been one of the nation's weatherization leaders, ramping up quickly and effectively to reach their goals ahead of schedule, weatherizing more than 1,000 homes by June.

Here's to that momentum spreading elsewhere. Friedman was none too pleased with his review Aug. 11 of another Recovery Act program, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Program. It also has problems busting free of government regulation and getting to the street.

"Due to a number of institutional impediments at all levels, these goals have yet to be met," he said.