WASHINGTON, D.C – U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) today introduced legislation that would increase tree planting and reduce residential energy bills across the United States. The Tackling Residential Energy burdens Efficiently Act, or the TREE Act, creates a cost-share grant program at the Department of Energy to provide funding to plant a minimum of 300,000 trees annually in residential neighborhoods that will reduce energy consumption and help protect public health.

“Planting trees improves air quality, reduces temperatures on hot days, and creates healthier neighborhoods,” Senator Booker said. “Low-income communities and communities of color have less neighborhood trees, and this lack of tree cover is associated with a whole host of serious health issues. This is an environmental justice issue that must be remedied in order to support our most vulnerable communities.”

“By strategically increasing the amount of trees planted in our communities, we can improve the quality of our air, increase property values, and reduce residential cooling costs,” Senator Capito said. “Connecting this program to our energy providers, nonprofits, and state and local governments will enable us to work together to reduce our carbon emissions and provide significant benefits to our economy. West Virginia is known for being wild and wonderful, and I want to ensure that reputation is preserved by planting trees for future generations that will enjoy all the many benefits of these investments.”

“This bill recognizes that trees can help save lives and save us money,” Jad Daley, CEO and President of American Forests said. “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.”

According to the US Forest Service, urban trees reduce the energy used for heating and cooling homes in the United States by more than 7 percent. This results in approximately $7.8 billion in annual savings from reduced energy costs. Also, it has been found that increasing the amount of tree canopy results in lower temperatures, less air pollution, fewer asthma attacks and less deaths from extreme heat.

The TREE Act’s grant program would prioritize the following projects:

Projects that provide the largest potential reduction in residential energy consumption for households with a high energy burden. Projects that are located in a neighborhood with lower tree canopy cover and higher maximum daytime summer temperatures.Projects that are located in a neighborhood with high amounts of senior citizens or children. Projects that will collaboratively engage neighbors and community members that will be closely affected by the tree planting. Projects that will employ a substantial percentage of the workforce locally, with a focus on engaging unemployed and underemployed persons.

The TREE Act is based upon a provision included in a larger environmental justice bill Booker introduced last year. That bill, the Climate Stewardship Act, was the biggest reforestation measure ever to be introduced in Congress.

The full text of the bill is available here.