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Reps. Cleaver, McKinley Introduce Bipartisan TREE Act

Press Release

Date: Sept. 17, 2020
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Environment

Today, United States Representatives Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) and David McKinley (R-WV) introduced the Tackling Residential Energy burdens Efficiently Act (TREE Act) to increase tree planting and reduce residential energy bills across the nation. The TREE Act would create a cost-share grant program at the Department of Energy to provide $50 million in funding to plant a minimum of 300,000 trees annually in residential neighborhoods throughout the United States through 2025.

"I want to thank Rep. McKinley for his bipartisan support in introducing this piece of legislation that is vital for our urban and low-income communities," said Congressman Cleaver. "By planting millions of trees in cities across the country, we have the ability to noticeably improve air quality, decrease energy consumption and bring down utility costs for communities that are disproportionately harmed by environmental degradation. That's something all Americans can agree on, and something I will continue to push for in the halls of Congress."

"By planting millions of trees, we can improve the quality of our air, reduce residential energy bills, and create healthier neighborhoods," said Rep. McKinley. "This bill will create new federal partnerships with nonprofits, utility companies, and state and local governments to help reduce carbon emissions and provide benefits to our economy."

"Citizens' Climate Lobby's Kansas City Chapter wholeheartedly supports the Tackling Residential Energy burdens Efficiently (TREE) Act and applauds Representative Cleaver for his farsighted sponsorship of this legislation," said Stephen Melton, Chapter Leader of Citizens' Climate Lobby-KC. "The TREE Act, which funds urban reforestation, will help make Kansas City more livable and resilient during the coming decades of global warming and is a necessary accompaniment to our efforts to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations."

"Trees are life-saving infrastructure, as this summer's record heat has made painfully clear." said Jad Daley, CEO and President of American Forests, the nation's oldest forest conservation organization. "Trees shade our homes in the summer and block wind in the winter--saving billions of dollars annually in reduced residential energy bills and protecting people from the dangers of extreme weather. This bill will establish new federal partnerships with utility companies, states, cities, and towns to ensure tree equity for every neighborhood, regardless of income or race, so that these powerful benefits of trees can be enjoyed by all."

"In Kansas City, tree planting is one of the strategies identified in its Climate Protection Plan, however, has been difficult to implement with limited financial resources," said Andy Savastino, Chief Environmental Officer of Kansas City's Office of Environmental Quality. "I fully support the TREE Act and believe it would be extremely beneficial to the Kansas City community and believe it to be consistent with the mission and interest of the City's Climate Protection Plan and more recently, the City's Urban Forest Master Plan, adopted May 2020."

The TREE Act's grant program would prioritize projects that:

Provide the largest potential reduction in residential energy consumption for households with a high energy burden;
Are located in a neighborhood with lower tree canopy cover and higher maximum daytime summer temperatures;
Are located in a neighborhood with high amounts of senior citizens or children;
Will collaboratively engage neighbors and community members that will be closely affected by the tree planting; and
Will employ a substantial percentage of the workforce locally, with a focus on engaging unemployed and underemployed persons.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, urban/community forests reduce the energy used for heating and cooling homes by more than 7 percent, resulting in approximately $7.8 billion in annual savings from reduced energy costs. The U.S. Forest Service has also found that increased tree canopy can decrease morbidity and mortality for urban populations--particularly in areas with lower socioeconomic status where existing tree canopies tend to be the lowest.

Organizations endorsing the TREE Act include: the Heartland Tree Alliance, Bridging the Gap, Citizens' Climate Lobby-Kansas City, American Forests, the National Audubon Society, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Evangelical Environmental Network, the American Institute of Architects, the Trust for Public Land, and the City of Kansas City Office of Environmental Quality.

The TREE Act was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

You can find the official text of the TREE Act here.