U.S. GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL: Advocacy Update

LEED Policies:     12 federal  |  44 state  |  186 localities

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April 2009
USGBC Testifies Before Congress on Green, Energy Efficient Federal Buildings

USGBC took to Capitol Hill on Earth Day, testifying about the federal government’s progress in greening federal facilities as part of Congress’ continued preparation for energy and climate change legislation.

USGBC Vice President of Market Development Doug Gatlin joined officials from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and other stakeholders before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to discuss GSA’s efforts to implement recent economic recovery funding for green federal buildings.

Gatlin applauded GSA’s leadership in reducing the environmental impact of federal facilities, noting the tremendous opportunities presented by the agency’s vast building portfolio, which includes more than 1,500 government-owned buildings and 7,000 leased spaces.

“Building efficiency offers an enormous pool of untapped resources that is right in front of us. Through ‘tune-ups’ to its building systems and equipment, the federal government can significantly reduce its environmental footprint and generate more than $650 million in energy savings annually,” Gatlin said. “The federal government must continue to lead by example to seize this great opportunity,” Gatlin said.

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House Holds Hearings, Considers Draft Energy and Climate Bill with Building-Related Provisions

Seeking to encourage congressional dialogue about and action to promote clean energy and combat climate change, House leaders released late last month a more than 600-page draft energy and climate bill for discussion. USGBC has been actively engaged in informing and providing technical assistance to Congress on several provisions included in this draft to ensure that buildings are recognized as an essential part of the climate change solution. The draft bill, released by Reps. Henry Waxman (CA) and Ed Markey (MA), is the subject of congressional hearings this week and is slated for consideration by House committees later this month.

The draft includes several provisions championed by USGBC that promise to advance green building, including a green retrofitting incentive program that would provide funds to building owners who achieve minimum energy and environmental performance improvements, as well as a model building energy performance labeling program to promote awareness of building energy use by residential and commercial building owners.

Under the labeling program, the Environmental Protection Agency would create model building energy performance labels--nutrition labels, of sorts, for building energy consumption--to establish a meaningful and consistent basis for evaluating the energy performance of residential and commercial buildings. Funds would be provided to states to promote use of the model labels in the way that makes the most sense for their communities.

Among other provisions, the House discussion draft also includes:

  • an energy efficiency resource standard requiring natural gas and electric utilities to achieve specific energy savings for a percentage of their sales;
  • a renewable portfolio standard requiring that utilities derive increasing percentages of electricity sold from renewable sources, with a potential one-fifth reduction in the requirement for utilities that are in compliance with the federal energy efficiency resource standard;
  • a cap on greenhouse gas emissions leading to an 83% reduction from 2005 levels by 2050;
  • targets for improvements to model building energy codes and related requirements for states;
  • and a program supporting the creation of “State Energy and Environment Development” (SEED) Funds, including revolving loan funds, to manage federal financial assistance for energy efficiency and clean energy projects.

Senate committees also have begun consideration of various energy proposals, and leaders are expected to release a draft energy bill in the coming days.

For a more complete summary of the Waxman-Markey discussion draft and the full text, please click here.

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Incentives for Building Retrofits Advanced as Essential Element of Energy Legislation in Congress

Slightly more than two months after the President’s economic recovery plan was signed into law with billions for energy efficiency and green building—energy efficiency and climate change are once again on Congress’ radar. House and Senate leaders are targeting consideration of energy and climate change legislation later this year and Members of Congress have released a flurry of related proposals in recent weeks. With environmental, economic, and social prosperity at the very core of its mission, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is working closely with Congress to develop and advance incentives that tap the potential of existing buildings to reduce our nation’s environmental footprint and create good, green jobs.

In late March, Congressman Peter Welch (VT), joined by USGBC and other stakeholders, announced the introduction of the Retrofit for Energy and Environmental Performance Program Act (REEP Act). The REEP Act, supported by 30 additional Members of Congress, would provide funds to support the creation of state retrofitting programs for existing homes and commercial buildings. Under the program, states would administer grants, revolving loans, or other incentives to homeowners who achieve a more than 10% reduction in building energy use and commercial building owners who achieve at least a 20% reduction through retrofitting measures. Increased incentives would be available for achievement of higher levels of energy efficiency, and states could offer additional incentives for demonstrated improvements in water efficiency, among other environmental attributes. The REEP program was included within a larger draft of climate and energy legislation that was released for discussion by House leaders in late March.

Michelle Moore, USGBC Senior Vice President for Policy & Public Affairs, praised the REEP Act as an important step toward retrofitting America’s 126 million existing homes and buildings.

“High efficiency green retrofits can save at least $160 billion and create 2.5 million jobs,” Moore said. “Congressional incentives such as Congressman Welch’s translate into action and base federal investments on actual performance.”

Rep. Welch’s proposal embraces the creation of public revolving loan funds as one of the options for financing retrofitting projects—a concept long championed by USGBC. In this model, loans are repaid by building owners back into the central fund through either an assessment on the owner’s property taxes or other means. Repayment amounts are correlated with the anticipated cost savings from retrofitting measures, allowing owners to realize the financial as well as environmental benefits of the projects. Repayments from completed projects are then used to finance additional retrofitting projects.

“Revolving loan funds are an innovative, fiscally responsible model for driving high-efficiency green retrofits,” added Moore. “Revolving loan funds have proven effective in small towns, bigger cities, and campus settings. They work, they’re scalable, and they make common sense.”

Other legislation on the move and supported by USGBC is the National Home Energy Savings Revolving Fund Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD). The bill would provide $10 billion (divided over two years) for a National Home Energy Savings Revolving Loan Fund that would administer funds to local governments to support revolving loans for homeowners who undertake energy efficiency improvements. Rep. Van Hollen also has proposed the creation of a national Green Bank to catalyze investment in clean energy and energy efficiency projects. That proposal (H.R. 1698) would authorize $10 billion in green bonds from the U.S. Treasury as initial capitalization for a national green bank.

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Federal Agencies Release Billions in Recovery Funds, Issue Guidance on Implementation

For more than a decade, USGBC and its members have worked to create buildings and communities that reflect our shared values and our commitment to an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment. We are now witnessing the transformative power of this work.

Billions of dollars in recovery funds, which are now flowing into communities nationwide, offer an unprecedented opportunity to replicate these successes on a grand scale and to bring the benefits of green building to millions of Americans. Federal agencies have been moving quickly to release billions of dollars in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds and related guidance to governors across the country.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated nearly 75% (or $10.1 billion) of the $13.61 billion it received under the ARRA within 8 days of the ARRA’s enactment, with the remainder to be distributed through competitive grants in future months. Similarly, in late March, the Department of Energy reported the availability of some $2.6 billion of the $3.2 billion in formula grants for states, territories, localities, and tribal governments provided for by the ARRA through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. The agency also released nearly $8 billion in funds for state energy and weatherization assistance programs. In its first round of recovery funding, the Department of Education has made available $44 billion in funds as well as guidance on its recovery programs. This includes $32.6 billion of the $53.6 billion authorized in the ARRA for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. Some $6 billion of the stabilization funds provided this round are for use to support government services, which according to agency guidance may include school construction, modernization, renovation, and repairs consistent with a recognized green building rating system. Other agencies have made similarly rapid progress in distributing recovery guidance and funds.

In late March, the General Services Administration submitted to Congress and posted publicly a comprehensive list detailing its plans for spending the $5.55 billion in funding it received under the ARRA. The list includes more than $4 billion in GSA high-performance green building projects nationwide, including full and partial, small, and limited scope modernization projects. Of the remaining amounts, $4 million will be provided to support GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings. The list and the funding detailed within it represent an unprecedented commitment to greening federal facilities and promise to catalyze the creation of healthier, more environmentally and fiscally responsible public facilities nationwide.

USGBC is committed to helping our communities make the most of these historic opportunities by providing resources and guidance to our advocacy committees, members, and allies. For the latest resources, including our ARRA summary, a matrix of funding opportunities, and our webinars in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative, please visit www.usgbc.org/government. Additional information about specific implementation efforts and related guidance will be regularly updated and made available on federal agency Web sites, which may be accessed at http://www.recovery.gov/?q=content/agencies.

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Growing Congressional Green Schools Caucus Holds Hill Briefing on Top Greening Strategies

Continuing to raise awareness of the many benefits of green schools, the Congressional Green Schools Caucus held its first briefing of the year in March. The panelists, who included USGBC Education Sector Senior Manager Rachel Gutter and Daryl Alexander, Health and Safety Program Director for the American Federation of Teachers, discussed strategies for low- or no cost options to green school facilities, and provided attendants with ten green strategies that can be passed on to schools within their respective congressional districts.

“USGBC wanted to provide strategies that could be quickly and easily implemented to save school districts energy, resources and money,” stated Gutter. “Now more than ever before, school districts need our help in identifying ways to cut costs without cutting corners.”

The Congressional Green Schools Caucus is a bipartisan group of nearly 70 Members of Congress that promotes green schools and their educational, health, and economic benefits. The goals of the caucus are to raise awareness of the benefits of green schools, lead the policy discussion on this topic in various forums, create legislative opportunities for the collective efforts of caucus members, and provide Members of Congress with constituent outreach resources.

Please visit www.buildgreenschools.org to find out if your representative is a member of the Caucus, and if not, to find out how to encourage him or her to join the Caucus.

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President Signs Robust Volunteerism Bill Including Clean Energy Corps, Environmental Service

With the troubled economy looming in the minds of millions and dominating the work of Washington, President Obama signed into law last week a robust national service bill that would create 175,000 new volunteer service positions. Delivering on President Obama’s promise of a call to service, with a renewed emphasis on green job creation, The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (H.R. 1388) establishes four new service corps, including a Clean Energy Corps designed to promote energy efficiency and conservation initiatives. Among other provisions, the new law broadens the purpose of the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) to encompass environmental stewardship and energy conservation, infrastructure improvement, urban and rural development, and disaster relief.

USGBC President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi celebrated the new law as an exciting opportunity for green building: “The green building movement is a testament to the spirit and creativity of our nation,” Fedrizzi said. “I can’t wait to see what’s possible with scores of new and energized volunteers sharing in our mission.”

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STATE & MUNICIPAL ADVOCACY
From Enthusiasm to Engagement: USGBC Chapter Advocates Directly Impacting Green Building & Sustainable Development Policies Near You

In the last three months, nearly 400 bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country seeking to impact green building and climate change policies. And that doesn’t include the roles that governors and mayors play in executive orders and commissions and the countless policies and regulations being adopted throughout city halls and municipalities in every part of the country. And whether it’s by offering expert testimony to legislative committees, serving on gubernatorial commissions, lobbying their legislature or recruiting legislators and mayors to build institutional support for green schools, USGBC chapter advocates are a part of the green solution. Some highlights from across the regions:

Sharing expertise while informing policy—Volunteering expertise: In Kentucky, three members of the USGBC chapter—Clive Pohl, Chris Tyler and Richard Polk—served as appointees of the Governor of Kentucky on the High Performance Buildings Advisory Committee, which recommended to Governor Steve Beshear that all new public facilities or renovations using 50% or more state funds be designed according to the energy efficiency standards outlined in the LEED Green Building Rating System. Governor Beshear accepted the recommendations in February.

United in Progress—Hard-fought legislative victories bode well for next session: In Virginia, a coordinated advocacy effort between the James River, Hampton Roads, South West Virginia, and National Capital Region resulted in major state senate wins for two bills that would have required certification under LEED or other green building rating systems for the Commonwealth’s public buildings. The Virginia chapters made incredible progress advancing the mission during the 2009 session.

USGBC National Advocacy Initiatives Update—Establishing sustainable platforms for engaging policymakers: Both the 50 for 50 Green Schools Caucus Initiative & the Mayors’ Alliance for Green Schools continue to expand into state houses and city halls across the country. Green Schools state legislative caucuses and working groups have formed or are organizing in MA, FL, IL, MN, NY, MD, TX, NM, MT, WI, VA and ME, with chapters in talks with legislators about forming a caucus in a half-dozen other states. And the Mayors’ Alliance continues to grow, with sixteen mayors, including the recent additions of Mayors Sam Adams of Portland, Karl Dean of Nashville, Lioneld Jordan of Fayetteville and R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis. Chapter advocates are working with mayors and their staff throughout the country to expand the reach and benefits of green schools.

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