WASHINGTON, D.C.—The House of Representative passed yesterday a bill that aims to provide technical, policy, and financial expertise to the U.S. insular areas with the goal of lowering energy costs.
H.R. 83, introduced by Delegate Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands), requires the Secretary of the Interior to put together energy teams for American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and for the Freely Associated States. The energy teams will develop individualized plans for each area and assist in putting the plans into action.
In his statement of support for H.R. 83, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) focused on the need to lower the cost of electricity in the Northern Marianas and all the insular areas. “Lowering the cost of electricity is extremely important to the people I represent in the Northern Mariana Islands,” the congressman said.
“Residential customers in my district pay 40 cents per kilowatt-hour—three times the U.S. average. And those electricity bills are eating away at families’ paychecks. That’s why I support H.R. 83.”
H.R. 83 will help local governments develop and implement plans to reduce reliance on the imported fossil fuels that make electricity so expensive in America’s insular areas.
The plans will propose technical, financial, and policy actions that island governments and local utilities can take to move the islands toward alternative sources of energy—especially renewables. The plans will also show how to improve efficiency beginning with production, through distribution, and at the point of use, so that every kilowatt generated in the islands goes unwasted.
The establishment of insular energy action teams is also a provision of Sablan’s bill, H.R. 2200, and of its Senate companion, S.1237, which passed the Senate on June 18.
Addressing high energy costs in the islands has been a priority for Sablan and all the insular area representatives. Last year, Christensen and Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), along with Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico), Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoan), and Sablan were successful in convincing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to increase funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, on the islands.
About 120 families were added to the rolls in the Northern Marianas and the assistance that all 420 families now receive is as much as double the previous amount.
“Helping some families with the high cost of energy was important, but only a partial fix,” said Sablan. “We need to work to lower costs for everyone.
“That’s what Ms. Christensen’s bill promises to do. That’s why I support her effort and congratulate her on her success today.” (Office of the Delegate)