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Houses passes rural small biz efficiency bill.

Sept 28, 2010

The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved legislation containing provisions similar to the On-Bill Financing mechanism that NSBA has long touted.

The Rural Energy Savings Program Act (H.R. 4785) would create the Rural Star Energy Savings Program, which would provide nearly $5 billion of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service (RUS) funds to rural electric cooperatives at zero-percent interest.

In turn, the utilities would offer low-interest, micro loans for energy-efficiency improvement projects to their rural small-business and residential customers. Customers would repay the loans over 10 years through their electric bills--at an interest rate of not more than three percent.

The Congressional Budget Office scored the bill as budget neutral, because the participating cooperatives ultimately are responsible for paying back the loans, even if their customers default.

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which represents rural utilities, praised the bill's passage.

The full House approved H.R. 4785 in a 240-172 vote. The bill was introduced by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), House Majority Whip, and had 56 cosponsors at its time of passage. It also creates a U.S. Department of Energy loan program. Clyburn's office estimates that the legislation would create 20,000 to 40,000 jobs a year.

The Senate version of the legislation (S. 3102) was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). It has been referred to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and currently has 18 bipartisan cosponsors, including Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), chair of the committee and a 2010 recipient of an NSBA Small Business Star award.

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Publication:The Weekly Advocate e-Newsletter
Date:Sep 29, 2010
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