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Fine Print: Assembly Bill A-2215

This bill would help curb greenhouse gas emissions by offering financial incentives to builders of sustainable structures.

Synopsis: The bill would offer low-interest loans to developers who construct high-performance green buildings, which reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Sponsors: Assemblymen John McKeon (D-Essex) and Upendra Chivukula (D-Middlesex)

What it aims to do: The legislation directs the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, in consultation with the state Department of Community Affairs, to create a low-interest loan program for developers or redevelopers who want to build sustainable buildings. To qualify, the building would have to be 15,000 square feet or larger in total floor area and would have to meet already established national green building standards. If the bill is adopted, the sponsors hope it will revive New Jersey’s lagging construction industry, where spending fell by $5.5 billion last year.

How it came about: U.S. buildings account for 40 percent of the country’s primary energy consumption and 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). With New Jersey having a goal to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, most officials say a big chunk of that reduction will have to come out of offices and other buildings. Low-interest loans will give developers more of an incentive to invest in more costly green buildings.

Why it raises concerns: The bill requires establishment of a low-interest loan program, but defers to the executive director of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to provide for the implementation of the loan program and to determine the terms and conditions of the loans, by regulation. The bill does not identify the source of funding for the loans, always a problem in a state strapped for cash.

Prospects: McKeon is chairman of the Assembly Environment Committee and Chivukula is chairman of the Assembly Utilities and Telecommunications Committee, two powerful legislative panels. Other members usually defer to their expertise on environmental and energy issues.

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