Facing a pillory of environmental objections from Democratic leaders over its decision to scrap a composting program for the House cafeteria, the Republican-controlled Committee on House Administration fired back on Wednesday, telling TPM that the plan was a wasteful mess.
Earlier this week, DCCC chair Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) told reporters in a statement that “Evidently the Republican economic strategy for jobs is one word: ‘Styrofoam,’” while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) issued their own condemnations of the new non-biodegradable utensils.
Salley Wood, Communications Director for the House Administration Committee, under whose jurisdiction the cafeteria falls, dismissed their complaints as misleading.
“I’m not sure what objection the DCCC has to us saving taxpayers $475,000 by suspending a program that failed to meet is objectives,” Wood told TPM.
Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), who chairs the House Administration Committee, announced an end to the composting program in January, saying that an analysis of its effectiveness by the Office of the Inspector General concluded it cost $475,000 a year while reducing pollution by the equivalent of taking only one car off the road. The composting plan is part of a larger green initiative launched by Pelosi in 2006 to cut down energy in the House, which remains otherwise intact. Pelosi’s office has disputed the IG’s findings on the compost program, arguing that the costs would come down as composting centers opened closer to the Capitol and that without the program much of the styrofoam will end up in landfills.
According to Wood, however, the costs of transporting the waste to be composted were only a small fraction of the total costs, with over $300,000 devoted to buying the fancier green-friendly utensils themselves. She added that the Architect of the Capitol was working on a plan to transport all styrofoam to two waste-to-energy plants that would burn the material and use it for power, thus preventing it from ever reaching a landfill. Other plans in the works include a pilot program in the Rayburn House Office Building cafeteria utilizing reusable dishes and utensils that could be expanded to the entire House if it proves successful.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.