U.S. House Drops Plans for Carbon Neutral Offices

by | Mar 3, 2009

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uscapitol1The U.S. House of Representatives has dropped its plan to make its offices “carbon neutral” even as it considers extensive legislation on climate change, reports the Washington Post. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero was at the heart of the House’s Green the Capitol program.

A spokesman for the House’s chief administrative officer said the chamber’s leadership dropped the purchase of “carbon offsets,” which cancels out emissions from its buildings, according to the Washington Post.

Jeff Ventura, spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, issued a statement about the House’s stand on carbon neutrality. “Although original ‘carbon neutrality’ targets were achieved, we recognize a widely accepted standard for ‘absolute neutrality’ does not exist, nor is there any formal accreditation process to certify an organization is carbon neutral. Therefore, the second phase of Green the Capitol will focus on the continued reduction of carbon and the saving of energy through operational improvements.”

Still, Democratic leaders say they want to have a bill ready for debate this summer that would create a “cap-and-trade” system for greenhouse gases, reports the Washington Post, which may give polluters the option of buying carbon offsets.

At the same time, legislators are dealing with the future of the Capitol Power Plant. Hundreds of demonstrators with Greenpeace, the Rainforest Action Network and other groups protested March 2 against the plant’s continued use of coal. The Washington Post reports the plant is burning more natural gas, which produces about half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal, but it continues to burn about 35 percent coal.

Despite the struggle with carbon offsets and the Capitol Power Plant, the Green the Capitol program, announced in June 2007, has made major strides, according to the latest report. Changes range from the use of biodegradable plates and cutting waste in Capitol cafeterias to reducing energy use in its buildings.

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