WEST CHESTER -- At a time when Republicans and Democrats are trying to convince voters that their party is right on energy policy, two local politicians are pointing to a recently passed piece of state legislation as evidence that, at least in Chester County, bipartisan agreement on energy is possible.
The legislation in question is a section of the Alternative Energy Investment Act, passed Friday, which will give grants and loans to small businesses to help them reduce energy costs.
Specifically, it will help businesses pay for a software upgrade that will reduce the number of computer servers they need, thereby reducing the cost of powering and cooling the servers.
The legislation was proposed by State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th of West Whiteland, but Dinniman said he got the idea for it from Scott Brion, who is both chairman of the West Chester Republicans and son of Skip Brion, the leader of the Chester County Republican Committee.
Scott Brion, who works in Chester County's Information Technology Services department, told Dinniman at a recent event that the county saved a lot of money by installing the software program, according to Dinniman and Brion.
Dinniman then worked to get $2.5 million for the grant program included in the Alternative Energy Investment Act. He estimated that the money could help up to 5,000 small businesses upgrade their server technology.
Dinniman added that it's important to encourage energy conservation, since the cost of electricity is likely to increase in 2010, when rate caps expire.
The Alternative Energy Investment Act provides $600 million for energy development and conservation programs. The department of environmental protection is in charge of administering the programs, and Dinniman said he hopes the computer server grant program will begin early next year.
Dinniman has sought to emphasize the bi-partisan nature of the computer server proposal. When asked if this was a calculation, in an election year, to make him more palatable to Republicans in this majority Republican county, he said, "I don't think I have to become more palatable to Republicans. My record during my 14 years as a county commissioner and my two years as a state senator has shown me to be someone who has always taken a bi-partisan approach."
Dinniman is running against Republican Steve Kantrowitz, a retired admiral, this year. Scott Brion said that, although he's happy he was able to work with Dinniman on the proposal, he will still be supporting Kantrowitz.
"I can say that this proposal has nothing to do with campaigning," Brion said. "It's about government... My feeling is it shouldn't affect how people view either candidate. Everyone's record speaks for itself."
County Republican Chair Skip Brion, Scott's father, said that he considers his son's collaboration with Dinniman to be nothing more than evidence that both political parties are concerned with the country's energy future.
"I do think Scott's idea was great," Brion added. "As a father, I'm proud of him."