Sen. Reschenthaler co-sponsors bill to encourage energy-saving upgrades

February 1, 2017
State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Jefferson Hills, speaks in Harrisburg about legislation he is co-sponsoring with Sen. John Blake, D-Monroe County, standing to his left.

The third time could be the charm for attempts to have Pennsylvania join the majority of states that offer incentives and financing mechanisms for commercial energy-saving upgrades.

State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Jefferson Hills, whose district includes Peters Township, is co-sponsoring legislation to establish a Property Assessed Clean Energy program. Under Senate Bill 234, PACE financing – which can be used to purchase new heating and cooling systems, lighting improvements, solar panels, water pumps and insulation – would be repaid in the form of a voluntary property tax assessment on a specific building subject to improvement.

“This has been an initiative that’s been percolating in the General Assembly, really, for three consecutive legislative sessions,” the bill’s other co-sponsor, Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna County, said. He and Reschenthaler introduced the legislation at a Tuesday news conference in Harrisburg.

Comparable programs are active in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

“If you look at the states where it’s been introduced, it shows just how bipartisan this bill is. It’s been passed in ‘red’ states and ‘blue’ states: Alabama, California, Texas, Massachusetts. The list goes on and on,” Reschenthaler said.

Blake, a former executive director of the Lackawanna County Redevelopment Authority, described the opportunities for investments in upgrades as “patient capital,” with potential for substantial returns in the long term.

“Even if a property is sold or transferred, that assessment simply continues with the property with the new owner,” he said, while explaining broader ramifications: “It is a job creator in so far as when the investments are made, there will be a ripple effect in the economy: innovation, things built here, the opportunity to have some predictable demand for one’s products.”

Under the legislation, a local governmental body would be able to choose to participate in or develop a PACE financing program. The body also would be tasked with collecting the assessment on the improved building and remitting it for payment on the debt incurred from a building’s upgrades.

Blake introduced similar bills in 2013 and 2015.

“What’s different about this year is the coalition that joins us, a coalition of labor, business and environmental advocacy that you may not customarily see among public policy initiatives here in the Capitol,” he said, also noting the impact of Reschenthaler’s support. “Guy has stepped up to be the strong advocate and champion in the majority caucus, and his work is already paying dividends for us.”

An especially prominent backer is Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe County, who is chairman of the Senate’s Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee. He also introduced similar legislation, while serving in the state House of Representatives.

“I believe that you’re going to see this come out of committee, and it’s going to go to the House,” Scavello said, joining Blake and Reschenthaler at the announcement, which was streamed live. “And we’re going to be able to do some good things for Pennsylvania.”

For more information on the PACE initiative nationally, visit pacenation.us.

Harry Funk has been a professional journalist in Western Pennsylvania for 30 years, working primarily for community-oriented newspapers. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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