Tonko response

Architects’ input needed to shape federal climate policy

US Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the Environment Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Co-Chair of the House’s Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), is soliciting feedback from the American Institute of Architects and other national stakeholder groups to assist in the development of new federal climate change legislation.  With broad jurisdiction over climate-related matters, the minority members of this Congressional Committee are acting upon their obligation to help the nation address the transition to low- and zero-carbon energy and to put the USA on a path to achieve the emissions reductions needed to stabilize the climate.

Although much of the information Congressman Tonko is seeking is about market-based carbon emission cap-and-trade regulations, he also seeks input into how the costs and benefits of such regulations would be equitably shared and/or mitigated. Architects have knowledge and experience that is relevant to many of the Congressman’s specific stakeholder-group questions. These include:

  • protection for low-income energy consumers: What is the most effective method to offset increased energy costs for low-income consumers?
    • Architects have practical experience in building energy efficiency and demand-side management, particularly in the workforce or affordable housing and facilities of public accommodation. Specific recommendations on how to offset increased energy cost through demand reduction—and other ideas—would be useful to share.
  • revenues: How should revenues generated from a cap-and-trade auction be used? What are the best methods to return the revenue generated through auctions to the American people?
    • Architects know that the market barriers to zero-energy or carbon-neutral buildings are substantial. Similarly, deep-energy retrofits to most of our existing building stock are financially impractical. Solutions to national challenges like these could be framed as a public investment and tied to revenue-sharing.
  • low-emissions transitions: What complementary federal programs are most important to support the transition to a low-emissions economy?
    • AIA COTE Advocacy has already created a matrix of valuable DOE and EPA programs that Architects rely upon to design increasingly energy-efficient buildings and spaces, but ideas for new programs could certainly be shared as well.
The full list of discussion questions is provided here, along with the Congressman’s initial letter. If you see another area which could benefit from the unique perspective of an architect, by all means, feel free to comment on that as well. At this time, it makes sense to keep these comments relatively brief and high level, reserving the opportunity to provide more detailed feedback of a technical nature until this proposal is further refined.

Letter from Congressman Tonko

Good afternoon,

During my time in Congress, whether I was working to reform how we regulate toxic chemicals or hosting monthly policy roundtable discussions, I have found that reaching out to experts and key stakeholders early and often is critical to developing meaningful and constructive policies. I am reaching out to you as one of those leaders to request your thoughts and expertise as my staff and I work to tackle a truly enormous challenge: climate change.

Since 2009 when the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, authored by Representatives Waxman and Markey, Congress has failed to produce an updated, comprehensive climate policy that accounts for the major changes occurring in the energy sector and the increasing effects of climate change that we are experiencing.

As Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Environment, I am launching this effort to develop new federal climate legislation that builds on everything that has happened since the ACES Act was introduced and that incorporates lessons learned from the development of the Clean Power Plan and through the numerous actions taken by states.

We must undertake this effort because climate change is real, it is primarily driven by human activity, and it requires coordinated federal action in order to make the emissions reductions needed.

I believe that EPA has clear existing authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions; however, legislation to address adaptation and the transition to low- and zero-carbon energy would provide certainty to put our society on a more sustainable path and to achieve the emissions reductions needed to stabilize the climate. That is why I am seeking feedback from a wide range of stakeholders to inform this effort. To that end, I have included a set of questions in this email. I would appreciate feedback on any of these, or other relevant, issues.

If you are interested in providing comments, please email your responses, along with any other information or white papers that you would like to be reviewed, to by February 28 or visit In an effort to produce candid responses, this information will not be released publicly. It may be summarized but without specific attribution.

Please feel free to share this message with anyone that you think might be interested in participating in a meaningful and constructive dialogue on the future of our country’s climate policy. If you have any questions, please reach out to Brendan Larkin in my DC office ( or 202-225-5076).


Paul D. Tonko
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Environment
House Energy and Commerce Committee


We seek feedback on policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions based on the principles of environmental effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, fairness, transparency, and simplicity.

We welcome thoughts on any effective climate solution but are particularly interested in issues related to designing a cost-effective, market-based cap and trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We specifically ask for views on the following topics:

  1. covered entities
    1. What entities should be covered and at what thresholds?
  2. emissions budget
    1. What is an appropriate cap on emissions in the near-term (relative to the 2005 CO2e baseline)?
    2. How much should it decrease over time and how quickly?
    3. Should there be a single, federal emissions budget or individual state or regional budgets?
  3. compliance periods
    1. How long should compliance periods be?
    2. How regularly should information be submitted by covered entities?
    3. Are all relevant emissions data already submitted to EPA? If not, which additional data would be necessary?
  4. allowance allocation
    1. How should allowances be distributed?
    2. If not completely or primarily auctioned, how should any free allowances be distributed?
    3. Should any allowances be set aside for purchase outside of the auction for specific types of entities, such as small businesses?
  5. auction rules
    1. Should an auction include a reserve price? If so, what should it be and by how much should it increase over time?
    2. Should future vintages be sold at each auction? If so, how many future years?
    3. What should be done with unsold allowances?
  6. cost controls
    1. Should an auction include a strategic reserve or other set aside if a certain price is reached?
    2. Should that reserve come from existing allowances or outside the emissions budget?
  7. banking and borrowing
    1. What limitations should exist on the banking and borrowing of allowances?
  8. offsets
    1. What types of offset activities should be allowable?
    2. What should be the limit on offsets during each compliance period?
  9. penalties
    1. What is an appropriate penalty for noncompliance?
  10. emissions and allowance reporting and monitoring
    1. Please provide any thoughts on program requirements for registration, reporting, verification, trading, enforcement, or independent market monitoring.
  11. mitigating leakage
    1. What steps should be taken to prevent or limit emissions leakage?
    2. Should free allowances be provided to energy intensive trade-exposed industries or other specific industries to prevent leakage?
  12. protection for low-income energy consumers
    1. What is the most effective method to offset increased energy costs for low-income consumers?
  13. revenues
    1. How should revenues generated from an auction be used? (For example, mitigating energy costs for consumers, protecting jobs of workers at trade-vulnerable, energy intensive industries, a climate dividend for all Americans, R&D, ZEV deployment and electrification of the transportation sector, energy efficiency, just worker transition.)
    2. What are the best methods to return the revenue generated through auctions to the American people?
  14. low-emissions transitions
    1. What complementary federal programs are most important to support the transition to a low-emissions economy? (For example, RES, investment in clean energy R&D, weatherization or other efficiency funding, flexible grants to states.)
  15. state programs
    1. How should a federal cap and trade program interact with existing state and regional cap and trade programs?
    2. How can the federal program ensure that it will not disadvantage early actors?