Ga. Lawmakers Push Back On Atlanta Energy Ordinance

Feb 18, 2016

Last year, Atlanta rolled out one of its biggest environmental initiatives: tracking energy and water use in big commercial buildings in an effort to encourage landlords to conserve. Now that program is coming under fire in the state legislature.

Under the ordinance, owners of large buildings report their utility use to the city of Atlanta and the city tracks it all and also makes it available to the public.

There is an exception: if a building is less efficient than the national median for energy use, that building’s information would not be released, though basic information about the building, such as its location, could be included in the report to show that it is in compliance with the ordinance’s requirement to report its energy and water use.

Republican state Sen. Hunter Hill, from Atlanta, says he believes the purpose behind releasing the information is to shame buildings’ owners. So he’s introduced a bill that would prevent the city from publishing it without landlords’ consent.

“It’s negative advertising that the city or the state is using that I’m trying to prevent,” he said in a committee meeting.

Opponents of the bill say that information should be available to the public, and that the change would undermine Atlanta’s building sustainability program, which the city says is good for business.  

“This is a huge feather in Atlanta’s cap,” environmental lobbyist Neill Herring said of the building ordinance. “[Mayor] Kasim Reed has taken bold steps to push Atlanta ahead of all the other competing cities. You don’t see this in Charlotte, or Birmingham or New Orleans or Houston, or any of those places. You see it in San Francisco, New York City and Atlanta.”

The bill passed out of a Georgia Senate committee on Wednesday.