Bryan Howard

Programs that advance innovation, enhance economic activity and conserve natural resources benefit from the bill.

Last week, the President signed a $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress. This law funds the federal government for the current fiscal year—FY2018—that is now about half over. Agencies now have the full year's funding that allows them to proceed with approved projects.

The legislation, commonly referred to as the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act, was passed on a bipartisan basis in both legislative branches. It broadly rejects the administration's proposal to downsize or eliminate important federal energy and environment programs. In some instances, the bill surpasses funding levels from those enacted by Congress during the Obama administration.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is set for a major funding boost under the legislation. Specifically, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will receive $2.3 billion, an increase of around $230 million from 2017 levels. Additionally, the bill provides guidance from Congress on priority activities within the office, including further research into solid state lighting and the advancement of residential smart grid systems.

The budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which the administration proposed reducing by over 30 percent, will largely stay intact. Congress did not advance the administration proposal to eliminate the Energy Star and WaterSense programs. USGBC companies and partners worked vigorously with Congress to ensure that these vital programs were maintained. This is a major victory for businesses and consumers, who will continue to see energy and water savings and ultimately lower utility costs.

A few tax and policy items also made it into the funding package. The bill includes a 12.5 percent increase in low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) allocation for four years (2018–2021). This is intended to help offset some of the damage done to the value of LIHTC in comprehensive tax reform last year. Although it doesn’t solve the issue completely, it will be helpful in the rehabilitation and new construction of rental housing targeted to lower-income households across the country.

The re-authorization of the EPA brownfields program was also included in the bill. The changes to the program largely mirror legislation USGBC endorsed that passed the House of Representatives in 2017 with broad bipartisan support.

USGBC thanks Congress for recognizing the value of these programs that advance innovation, enhance economic activity and conserve natural resources.

Read about LEED and Energy Star.

Read about the legislative changes to the EPA Brownfields Program.

Read about the impact of tax reform on LIHTC.