From Charles Allen <[email protected]>
Subject Holding Dangerous Drivers Accountable + Leading on Climate
Date May 13, 2024 9:26 PM
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<[link removed]>On Friday, after months of public hearings and hard work, I put forward a revised budget for the Council's Committee on Transportation and the Environment. It passed unanimously! As the Chair of that committee, I oversee the budgets for several agencies, including the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy and Environment. These are the agencies most responsible for ensuring we hold dangerous drivers accountable, fight climate change, keep our rivers and air clean, and build a transportation network for the 21st century supporting Metrorail and Metrobus, biking, walking, rolling, and driving. 

Because DC was facing such critical and devastating cuts in the proposed budget that was sent to my committee, I wanted to share a quick update specific to this effort. I'll send out a more comprehensive update on the full budget and wins for Ward 6 as the Council budget process continues.

Here's what our Committee moved forward on climate, traffic safety, and transportation: 

- Reversing $20 million of cuts to the District’s main climate change fund (the Sustainable Energy Trust Fund) to:
- Implement the Healthy Homes law to help modernize and upgrade 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 <[link removed]>’s funding to support low-interest financing for sustainable and affordable housing development and green infrastructure projects, enabling 9:1 private-to-public investments; 

- Restore funding for DC’s Solar for All <[link removed]> 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 much more.

- Funds provisions from my STEER Act <[link removed]> to hold dangerous drivers accountable: 1) creates new positions within the Office of the Attorney General to go after dangerous drivers or their vehicles, and 2) requires the installation of "speed governors" in the cars of people who engage in reckless and dangerous driving. It also requires better coordination between MPD, DDOT, and the DMV to prevent issuing parking or speeding tickets against a person whose vehicle was stolen at the time of the ticket. My office has sadly helped multiple residents with this issue, which only adds injury to the trauma they've experienced.

- Advances the additional $217 million needed to ensure WMATA avoids its fiscal cliff and serious reductions in Metrorail and Metrobus service, and funds the Kids Ride Free and Adult Learner Transit Subsidy programs.

- Restores funds dedicated to important 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 <[link removed]> to install rain barrels, trees, and gardens at no or low-cost; and green summer workforce training for young people <[link removed]>. I heard from my Ward 6 neighbors specifically on how these cuts would hurt programs they really care about -- I'm glad we got them reversed.

- Gives the green light to dozens of bus priority and safe streets projects to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, including ensuring DDOT moves forward with a a safer Connecticut Avenue Safety Project that includes a protected bike lane – 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 DCCirculator operations in collaboration with the Circulator contractor, WMATA, and affected labor unions - ensuring riders, drivers, and neighborhoods aren’t left stranded without bus coverage. I'm going to be watching closely to see how this impacts especially Ward 6 routes such as Eastern Market to L'Enfant Plaza and Eastern Market to Union Station.

- Includes $204 million forstreet paving, $110 million foralley repaving, $127 million forfaster sidewalk repair, $109 million forbus priority projects, $32 million forprotected bike lanes and pedestrian safetyimprovements, $10 million for new or upgradedCapital Bikesharestations, and $500,000 to continue my new e-bike incentive programfor District residents.

I put out graphics with these updates on Instagram <[link removed]>, hopefully a helpful summary to share with neighbors who care about these issues. 

Fixing the Solar Credit Marketplace with the Full Council

Because so many Ward 6 neighbors and DC residents have already taken steps to add solar or invest in community solar, I want to talk about one remaining wonky but incredibly important issue I'll work with the full Council to address before the final vote. It has to do with the threat to the solar credit market (SRECs, for those who are familiar). 

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 takes even more money – and pulls the DC government itself 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 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. Working with my committee members, we did restore most 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. 

Opting the DC government out of the solar credit market through the budget gimmick and paying the “alternative compliance fees” 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, we couldn’t undo the Mayor’s proposed subtitle and restore funding for all of the programs above. It’s a short-sighted proposal and tells residents and businesses to do as we say, not as we do. I'm going to work with the Chairman and my colleagues to reverse this disastrous decision and ensure the District government is a leader, not a hypocrite, on our climate goals.

Still, I hope you feel as excited as I am for this budget -- given how challenging this budget is, we're making important strides forward on some critical issues that affect every neighborhood in DC. 

I'll write again soon with a full newsletter and a more specific Ward 6 update on budget items on public safety, education, housing, and more. Finally, I want to recognize the hard work of my legislative team (pictured left to right: Anthony Thomas-Davis, Kate Mitchell, Antonio Nunes, and Kevin Whitfield). Budget is always a very demanding time, and having lost two wonderful legislative staff members in Chris Laskowski and Nate Bell this year, I just want to express my appreciation for how hard the team worked to serve our city even as we all mourned our colleagues. 

See you around the neighborhood,

Charles Allen
<[link removed]>

Councilmember Charles Allen - 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Suite 110, Washington, DC 20004, United States
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