[This is my contribution to Blog Action Day, which has the environment as its theme this year.]
When someone is in office for a number of years you can look to see if there are themes to their work and legislation. Certainly every elected official does, or should, work on burning issues of the day, but like those outside of office, they often have personal interests that are reflected in the long-term work they do.
Let’s take a look at one such official and one of her key themes. Allyson Schwartz, currently the representative for Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district, served in the State Senate from 1990 to 2004 when she was elected to Congress. In the biography on her congressional website we find:
In Congress, Schwartz has continued to focus on healthcare, including working for the expansion of federal SCHIP to cover all eligible children. Schwartz is also instrumental in legislative efforts redirecting the nation’s environmental and energy policies towards energy independence and the reduction of global warming. Her energy legislative accomplishments include smart reuse of Brownfield sites, incentives for businesses to build energy efficient buildings and securing tens of millions of dollars to enable communities throughout the 13th district to revitalize commercial business districts and develop new greenways.
Her work on SCHIP has been widely documented elsewhere so we’ll leave it for now, and look at some of her environmental work.
The League of Conversation Voters, in 2006, rated congressional representatives and senators on their environmental voting. Nationally the average score was 45%. Pennsylvania house members averaged 34%. Schwartz ranked the highest in the state with a 94%. (“Fitzpatrick earns D-minus for environmental voting,” by Brian Scheid (3/06/2006). In 2004, she also had the support of the League, whose endorsement read:
LCV has endorsed Democrat state Senator Allyson Schwartz for the open seat in Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District. As state Senator, Allyson Schwartz established an impressive environmental record, regularly receiving high marks from the Pennsylvania League of Conservation Voters, including a 90% in 2002. She supported brownfields clean up legislation and worked to make sure that the program safeguarded public health. Schwartz fought to create the office in the PA Department of Environmental Protection that gives small businesses advice on compliance of environmental legislation. During the Pennsylvania energy deregulation debate, state Sen. Schwartz sponsored legislation to increase the use of renewable energy in power generation.
The Pennsylvania Sierra Club, in their Sept 04 Sylvanian newsletter also endorsed her:
Allyson Schwartz has an unparalleled record of accomplishment as an environmental legislator in the Pennsylvania Senate. She has been a leader for the state's landmark land use and planning reforms as well as a strong supporter of open space preservation initiatives such as Growing Greener. During her 14 years of public service she has consistently been rated among the best pro-environment Senators in the state, and has been endorsed by the Sierra Club for her work in the General Assembly three times.
In the Fall 2003 PennEnvironment Newsletter, she was the only state senator to earn a higher than 80% rating from the group; she earned an 88%
The Nov./Dec. 04 Clean Water Action News noted:
Of particular note was the victory by state Senator Allyson Schwartz in the 13th Congressional District in the Philadelphia area. Senator Schwartz has been a long-time friend of Clean Water Action in Harrisburg, and we look forward to working with her in Washington. All of the candidates Clean Water Action endorsed for the state House of Representatives won, including Josh Shapiro from Montgomery County who won a hotly contested race for an open seat.
Another of Schwartz’s self-stated interests is business development and this has, for a notable period of time, overlapped with her environmental interests.
As early as 1992 (“Big bite for small firms environmental rules hit hard,” by John J. Fried, Philadelphia Inquirer 4/12/92):
And, to help small Pennsylvania businesses cope with the demands of the Clean Air Act, Sen. Allyson Schwartz (D, Phila) has proposed legislation to make available low-interest loans to small businesses for environmental projects. The senator also wants the state to establish an outreach program to educate small businesses about the Clean Air Act requirements and help them design compliance efforts.
Earlier that year, same paper, the same reporter on 2/21/92 wrote “Clean-air aid urged for businesses in PA.:”
Small businesses in Pennsylvania would get state support to help them comply with the 1991 Clean Air Act under legislation being proposed by state Sen. Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Phila).
Schwartz unveiled her ideas, contained in a three-bill package Wednesday in a news conference attended by state and business officials.
Under her proposals, small businesses would be able to obtain low-interest loans from the state to finance projects that would enable them to comply with federal regulations.
On Feb. 20th the Daily News ran an article “Regs may cost small biz big $,” by Ramona Smith, which detailed the legislation.
Schwartz proposed to set aside 10 percent to 40 percent of all Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loans for environmental compliance projects – an estimated $10 to $40 million an year.
She also proposed to spend $135,000 on informing small businesses what they’re expected to do.
A third bill would reserve 10 percent of the Department of Commerce’s technology development funds – about $3.2 million – to spur development of pollution prevention businesses.
This has continued in her congressional career. The American Planning Association praised her in their May 1, 2007 newsletter, the APA Advocate:
Since the beginning of the 110th Congress there has been a lot of talk about the importance of addressing global warming. After less than four months in session, dozens of energy and climate bills already have been introduced. Among the proposals, a set of bills focusing specifically on green building design has steadily gained momentum. In addition to legislation introduced by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) to extend and increase the current tax credit for green buildings and Sen. Boxer's work on greening federal buildings, three new measures have recently been introduced: …
The American Institute of Architects also highlighted Schwartz’s role in this legislation. As did the American Council of Engineering Companies. Also the National Electrical Contractors Association. That is a very diverse group of organizations. (For more information on the original legislation, see this page. http://www.efficientbuildings.org/about_the_provision.html)
On July 10th of this year the American Society of Landscape Architects mentioned her work on HR 2643:
The bill also includes increased funding for the EPA and its Green Infrastructure Partnership, a pilot program that ASLA supported and worked on with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (D-PA). The pilot program will seek to use green roofs and other green infrastructures to control sewer overflows and stormwater management.
She also practices what she preaches. In July of this year she introduced HR 3037, the Green Meetings Act, which would require all branches of the government to follow the rules the EPA does when selecting hotels and conference facilities. According to the press release on this:
Conferences and meetings consume large quantities of environmental resources. For instance, a typical five-day conference for 2,500 attendees will use 90,000 cans or bottles, 75,000 cups and 87,500 napkins. By adopting environmentally-conscious policies hotels and conference facilities can significantly improve the environmental strain and reduce energy consumption of large meetings. If one hotel initiates a linen and towel reuse program it can conserve 200 barrels of oil - enough to run a family car 180,000 miles.
On May 1, 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency changed its acquisition rules for planning meetings and conferences to give preference for facilities that manage their resources in environmentally positive ways. When the EPA solicits services for conferences and meetings, it uses a 14-point checklist to locate facilities that use good conservation practices such as providing guests with a towel reuse option, having an energy efficiency program, or having easy access to public transit options.
The federal government spends billions each year on travel and meetings. These funds should be used wisely to encourage businesses to take responsible actions that reduce their energy consumption and environmental footprint. That’s why I have introduced the Green Meetings Act (H.R. 3037), which would expand EPA’s green meeting policy to all federal government agencies.
The EPA rules are available as a pdf file, scroll to page 3, 1523.703-1. (http://www.epa.gov/oppt/greenmeetings/pubs/48cfr1523.pdf). The October issue of Meetings and Conventions has an article on this topic also ("Earth's Ambassadors," by Cheryl-Ann Sturken
The same goes for her office. As noted on the Clean Air Council website:
State Senator Allyson Schwartz's Office cut the amount of trash disposed each week by 50% by reducing the amount of office paper used and reusing paper whenever possible.
Even The Hill mentioned her, in their August 3rd article, “Going green: It’s the new red, white and blue,” by Emily Belz, she is listed among congressional representatives who drive hybrids. The article also said:
You will also find Schwartz surfing that wave. Her office keeps the heat on a moderate setting in the winter. “Occasionally that means wearing an extra sweater,” she said.
Schwartz rides trains to and from her native Philadelphia, and she tries to be strategic when she runs errands so she doesn’t make multiple trips.
“My time in Washington is limited,” she said. “I don’t do that much shopping — I’m not such a domestic. When I can I like to buy fresh food, not packaged.” She shops at local Pennsylvania farms.
If one measure of a legislator is the consistency of their core values and a clear demonstration of that value echoed in their own life then Rep. Schwartz passes the test on environmental issues.