8/3/16 – Small-biz owner: Why I’m testifying today in front of the EPA

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August 3rd, 2016

Our business is an insulation contractor specializing in weatherization projects. Our family has been in business for more than 30 years, and I have been self-employed for the last 20. Today, Minnich Insulation is a third-generation business.

During the last few years, our focus has shifted. Today, the majority of our projects involve energy efficiency upgrades in affordable housing units in the Chicago area, ranging from single-family homes to larger multifamily projects. We are excited about the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Energy Incentive Program. In fact, I’ll be testifying about the program today at the U.S. EPA’s regional headquarters in Chicago—the only public hearing in the country on the topic.

The Clean Energy Incentive Program would give building owners in the Chicago area added incentives to carry out this type of important work—if Illinois chooses to take advantage of the program.

Many of the buildings that we serve are more than 100 years old and often have deferred maintenance and inefficient heating and cooling systems. With the addition of new insulation and air sealing, we are able to effectively cut the heating and cooling costs of these buildings over the long term, while making them more comfortable and safer for the people who live there. This represents a tremendous benefit for tenants who might not otherwise have the resources to make these improvements.

If the state of Illinois agrees to take part, the CEIP would further encourage building owners to work with contractors to make these upgrades for the benefit of themselves and residents.

My business is an example of how energy efficiency programs for multifamily housing can also help businesses expand and grow jobs, and help the local supply chain.

Before getting started with weatherization programs, we had one blowing machine and truck. In the last four years, we have added two more of each, along with two pickup trucks. We went from renting one warehouse space to purchasing three warehouse units in four years. Over the last year, my two brothers, an HVAC contractor and a boiler contractor who have started working on affordable housing projects, have doubled their employee count.

Even with today’s turbulent economy, energy efficiency programs mean stability for my business, and for my employees and their families. This has allowed me to provide my employees with well-paying jobs, fully funded additional training as needed, 100 percent paid health coverage and paid time off.

It is fitting that the EPA has chosen Chicago as the site for its only hearing anywhere in the country on the CEIP. Illinois has an important story to tell when it comes to energy efficiency. Since standards were created in 2007, they have helped spur growth, helping new businesses get off the ground and helping older companies, like ours, hire more people and serve more customers. Overall, these standards have helped save Illinois energy consumers more than $1 billion, according to the Citizens Utility Board.

But there is more work to be done. That is why I believe Illinois should seize the opportunity offered by the CEIP and, at the state level, act on legislation that builds upon the success of our state’s energy efficiency programs. Boosting the current standards would create further savings and thousands more jobs. Most important, the communities that would be most affected by this program include Chicago-area neighborhoods with families who would otherwise not have the means to make these energy efficient changes to their homes.

Illinois must act quickly. The benefits under the program will go only to states that act ahead of key deadlines. In fact, under the CEIP, energy efficiency projects that serve low-income communities would be the first to be eligible for credits—approximately 16 months ahead of eligible renewable energy projects.

Letting the CEIP slip through our fingers would be a lost opportunity for Illinois.

Joe Minnich is president of Minnich Insulation, a family-run business based in Mokena that performs air sealing and insulation work throughout the Chicago area.