Issue Brief: The Residential Energy and Economic Savings (TREES) Act


The American Society of Landscape Architects supports legislation that encourages energy efficiency and carbon sequestration through the careful and coordinated planting of trees.


Electric power (28%) is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States after the transportation sector (29%). Heating and cooling homes accounts for over 40 percent of residential electricity usage. Planting shade trees in strategic locations can reduce residential cooling costs by up to 30 percent.

Trees are one of the best tools a landscape architect can use to fight the disastrous effects of climate change. In addition to lowering cooling costs, shade trees provide the added benefit of providing carbon sequestration. Trees reduce the rate of stormwater runoff, which improves surface water quality. Trees reduce topsoil erosion keeping harmful pollutants from getting in our waterways and reduce the risk of mudslides. As an added benefit, strategically placed trees can increase a home’s property value.

Bill Summary

On January 15, 2020, The Residential Energy and Economic Savings (TREES) Act was introduced by Representatives Doris Matsui (CA), John Sarbanes (MD), and Jeff Fortenberry (NE). This measure would create a grant program within the U.S. Department of Energy to assist utilities and retail power providers to create (or continue to operate) targeted residential tree-planting programs. The tree-planting programs must provide free or discounted shade-providing or wind-reducing trees to residential consumers.

In order to qualify for funding, utility providers must agree to consult with nonprofit tree-planting organization(s), local government or conservation districts, and state officials to create a technical advisory committee. The technical advisory committee would help establish rules, procedures, guidelines, and recommendations for all aspects of the programs including tree types and locations as well as workforce development programs. The composition of the committee encourages the participation of at least one licensed landscape architect.

This legislation includes provisions to ensure that underserved and disadvantaged communities are given priority access to these grants. As with most federal grant programs, the federal government only provides 50 percent. This legislation does allow localities to use state and local funds as well as non-governmental funds and assistance to count towards their 50 percent match.

Acknowledging that climate change has caused an increase in wildfire threat, provisions were included in this legislation to help with fire prevention. This includes language ensuring trees do not interfere with energized electricity at the time of planting nor when they are mature. It also requires consultation between power providers and tree-planting entities before tree placement near and under electric transmission lines . 

Recent Action
On June 26, 2020, the TREES Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of H.R. 2 the Moving Forward Act.

On January 15, 2020, H.R. 5615, The Residential Energy and Economic Savings (TREES) Act was introduced by Representatives Doris Matsui (CA), John Sarbanes (MD), and Jeff Fortenberry (NE). 


H.R. 5615, Representative Doris Matsui (CA) and cosponsors. 


Roxanne Blackwell, 
Esq., Hon. ASLA,
Director of Federal
Government Affairs

Elizabeth Hebron,
Director of State
Government Affairs