Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • Reducing Greenhouse Gas Pollution: Protecting Communities and Strengthening the Economy

    In January 2010, President Obama announced that the Federal Government would reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its operations by 28 percent by 2020. In his announcement the President remarked, “As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient.”

    This goal wasn’t just about improving the operations of government, but about living up to the Federal Government’s responsibility to all Americans to improve our economy and environment. In meeting this pollution reduction target, the Government will help American taxpayers avoid up to $11 billion in energy costs.

    In line with this effort, the Council on Environment Quality (CEQ) is releasing revised GHG emissions accounting guidance for Federal agencies. The draft proposes revisions to guidance released in October 2010, which established Government-wide requirements for measuring and reporting GHG emissions associated with Federal agency operations. As agencies learn from their experience implementing the initial guidance, we are applying this knowledge in our continual quest to make Federal emissions reporting as accurate as possible. 

    As part of our Open Government initiative at CEQ, we are giving the public an opportunity to review this guidance and provide us with feedback. CEQ will review all public comments submitted in the next 30 days before finalizing the updated guidance.

    We look forward to hearing from all of you as we continue to work toward the President’s goal to lower costs, reduce pollution, and transition to a cleaner, all-of-the-above energy strategy.

    You can read the revised GHG plan and share your ideas here.

    Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Great Lakes Summit: Advancing Partnerships for Great Lakes Restoration

    Today, CEQ hosted a White House Community Leaders Briefing on the Great Lakes Region with environmental, academic, business and civic leaders from throughout the Midwest. The briefing was an important opportunity for dialogue between Great Lakes leaders and senior Administration officials like Counselor to the President Pete Rouse, Secretary of Commerce John Bryson, Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes, and USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills, on the importance of community leadership in Great Lake restoration.

    The Great Lakes are home to some of America's finest beaches, world-class fisheries, and some of the world's most popular tourist destinations. They are also one of the planet's greatest natural resources, providing drinking water for more than 30 million people and supporting one of the world's largest regional economies.

    The Administration has made it a priority to work with state, city, environmental, academic and business leaders toward lasting solutions for the Great Lakes. We have made the most significant investment in history in Great Lakes restoration – more than $1 billion since the President took office – and launched the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to dedicate sustained attention to restoring this vital ecosystem. Led by U.S. EPA, the initiative has already removed more than 1 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment and protected or restored more than 20,000 acres of essential habitat.  

    Great Lakes Summit

    Senior Administration officials engage with Great Lakes Community Leaders.

    But there is much more work to do, and now is not the time to scale back our Nation's commitment to the Great Lakes. Most recently, the President's FY 2013 budget included $300 million to continue critical interagency Great Lakes ecosystem restoration work. These GLRI funds, combined with agencies' significant base Great Lakes funds, will help advance our collective work to return this ecosystem to health.

    We are committed to continuing progress in the Great Lakes. Today's gathering at the White House was another important step in advancing the partnership between the Administration and the dynamic community of leaders that has fostered success for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and its goal of a healthy environment and thriving economy for all Americans.

    Rohan Patel is Associate Director for Public Engagement at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Built to Last: Energy and the Environment in the Southwest

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Neal R. Armstrong, Director of the Center for Interface Science: Solar Electric Materials at The University of Arizona.

    CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley recently visited the University of Arizona (UA) to tour one of the nation’s hubs for energy research, the Center for Interface Science: Solar Electric Materials (CISSEM), and to discuss sustainability with leading researchers, administrators, and students. The visit followed President Obama’s State of the Union Address last month, in which he laid out a blueprint for an American economy that is “built to last,” including a strong focus on clean energy.

    CISSEM is one of 46 Energy Frontiers Research Centers created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. These centers are focused on transformative innovations in renewable energy production that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and protect our environment.  Appropriate to Arizona’s photon-rich landscape, UA’s center is at the cutting edge of the effort to create solar cells that are economically competitive with fossil fuels. Such cells must be both relatively inexpensive to manufacture and efficient at converting sunlight into electricity.

    Chair Sutley tours UA

    Chair Sutley tours UA’s Energy Frontiers Research Center with Director Neal Armstrong. (Photo Credit: University of Arizona)

    After visiting CISSEM’s laboratories, Chair Sutley was briefed on UA’s own sustainability efforts by Senior Associate Vice President for Business Affairs Bob Smith. In the Southwest, water management is a critical priority, and UA is conserving through efforts including waterless urinals, reclaimed water irrigation, water harvesting, xeriscaping, and irrigation scheduling. The University is also actively reducing energy consumption by installing photovoltaic and solar thermal panels on a number of campus buildings, lighting retrofits, combined heat and power plants, HVAC scheduling, high-efficiency boilers, smart thermostats, and more. 

    Chair Sutley wrapped up her visit to the University of Arizona at a sustainability roundtable with UA scientists, administrators, and students, moderated by UA Provost Jacquelyn Mok. In her opening remarks, the Chair noted several of the challenges facing federal policymakers: How do we best take advantage of the information technology revolution? How do we think about federal assets in the face of a changing planet so that we can provide actionable information to local and regional managers? And, how do we change from a stovepipe mindset to bring a systems approach to managing natural resources and energy systems? Steered by Executive Dean Joaquin Ruiz, a focus on water echoed throughout the discussion, since water is a critical variable in all natural resource issues including energy production. The discussion ended with an impassioned plea from undergraduate Noelle Espinosa for continued federal support of our nation’s universities that foster innovative programs such as CISSEM and help lay the groundwork for a prosperous, sustainable future for America.

    UA President introduces Chair Sutley

    UA President Gene Sander introduces Chair Sutley to the sustainability roundtable. (Photo Credit: University of Arizona)

    Neal R. Armstrong is Director of the Center for Interface Science: Solar Electric Materials at The University of Arizona

  • A Rural Council Initiative – Creating Jobs and Building a Forest Restoration Economy

    Since the Rural Council was established last June, the Council has been a tremendous forum for discussing how to increase the focus on conservation work and create jobs in rural America. Here at the White House, we have been proud to work with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on the recent report: “Increasing the Pace of Restoration and Job Creation on our National Forests” (USDA Restoration Report). The commitments we made in this report exemplify the progress we can achieve through the work of the Rural Council.

    America’s forests provide myriad goods and services for the American public: clean drinking water, habitat for wildlife and fish, timber, and jobs that generate opportunities to create rural wealth. We believe that increasing the pace of forest restoration is important to the economic prosperity of rural America. Accelerating the restoration of our National Forests will also help combat the threats of disease, pests, wildfires and climate change to our forests.     

    Our forests support rural economies through recreation, tourism, and the production of wood products and bioenergy. The forest restoration report calls for a 20 percent increase of treated forest acres over the next three years, which would increase forest products sold by the National Forests from 2.4 billion board feet in 2011 to 3 billion board feet no later than 2014. This increase will accomplish critical restoration objectives, support jobs and stimulate a more vibrant forest industry that will provide workers with the skills to undertake other restoration projects. Active management of the nation’s forests, and the forest products industry that supports sustainable actions, are vital to meeting these objectives. The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program is an excellent example of how USDA works successfully in partnership with states, communities, tribes and private land owners and it is exciting to see opportunities ahead with the announcement of ten additional forest and watershed restoration projects for a total of twenty (CFLR projects in 2012).

    Accelerating restoration also will encourage an expanded market for wood products, including biomass utilization. The Forest Service is currently working with USDA on 12 Wood-to-Energy projects that will showcase how forest restoration and job creation go hand in hand. 

    The forest restoration strategy also advances the priorities of President Obama’s Americas Great Outdoors initiative by encouraging greater use and access to our public lands. We know there is a strong link between outdoor recreation and economic health. Currently, recreation activities on National Forest System lands alone contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs in local communities. Just last month, President Obama directed his Administration to craft a new national tourism strategy focused on creating jobs – and a key piece will be encouraging foreign tourists to visit national parks and national forests, which will benefit rural economies.   

    The Rural Council provides an excellent forum for advancing ideas to benefit rural America. The Council will support this effort to deliver results from the forest restoration report and as work progresses in building a forest restoration economy.

    Jay Jensen is Associate Director for Land and Water Ecosystems at the Council on Environmental Quality.

    Doug McKalip is Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council.

  • Lighting the Path toward Energy Efficiency

    As dusk set on January 30th Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu flipped the switch illuminating the capitol mall with energy efficient lighting. The Mall's 174 lamps, originally installed in 1936, were retrofitted with light emitting diodes (LEDs). The LED lighting provides a brighter glow using less energy. 

    National Mall

    Tourists and joggers using the elm path, underneath the LED lighting, with the Capitol Building in the background.

    Many cities have installed LEDs in public spaces and are already taking advantage of the benefits, and the Federal government continues to lead by example by installing LEDs and implementing other energy efficient measures.

    The lighting installation on the Mall provides a 65 percent savings on electric bills and maintenance costs incurred by the National Park Service. The brighter light from the LEDs, as compared to the old bulbs, will also help to create a more secure park area.  

    Energy Secretary Steven Chu noted that "Using energy-efficient LED light bulbs is an important way Americans can save money by saving energy." Secretary Chu also commented that "Investing in an American economy that is built to last includes taking advantage of all of America's energy resources while working to improve efficiency. Installing these energy-efficient bulbs on the National Mall is an important demonstration of our commitment to partnering with the private sector to promote energy saving technologies." The bulbs are expected to last 25 years.

    National Mall LED

    Close up of one of the 174 LED Retrofit Kits for Outdoor Lighting on the National Mall.

    View Slideshow: Flipping the Switch on LED Lighting for the National Mall.

    Michelle Moore is Federal Environmental Executive at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • Praise for Charting a New Direction on National Forests

    Editor's Note: Tom Tidwell is Chief of the U.S. Forest Service.

    Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and I announced our intent for finalizing a new planning rule to govern management of the National Forest System. The 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands are critical to President Obama’s vision of an economy built to last, providing clean air, clean water, habitat for wildlife, opportunities for healthy outdoor recreation, jobs and growth in rural communities, and a range of other benefits for all Americans.

    When finalized, a new rule will replace outdated procedures that have been in place since 1982 that no longer reflect the best science, public values, or agency expertise. Land management plan revisions under the preferred alternative would cost less money and take less time, while protecting and restoring our forests, water and wildlife and supporting vibrant rural communities.

    We listened to input from the public to develop the preferred course of action, included as the preferred alternative in the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement released last week. We hosted the most collaborative and transparent rule-making process in agency history, and carefully considered more than 300,000 public comments.

    Here is what some of our partners and interested members of the public have said about the preferred alternative:

    "In the early 1980’s, I was a forest planner attempting to implement what was then the new planning rule. I believed it was a good rule, and for its time, it was. But the 1982 rule is out of date for today’s circumstances. Today, the Forest Service is focused on restoration, including restoring fire dependent ecosystems to a more natural condition. This new preferred alternative protects our natural resources, promotes sustainable recreation and safeguards our precious drinking water while allowing for timber harvest and facilitating restoration.

    The preferred alternative modernizes the planning process. It promotes a collaborative approach where people are engaged throughout the entire process all the way to implementation. It is the outcome of extensive public engagement, including hundreds of thousands of comments and thousands of people participating in roundtable discussions around the country. When the final decision is published, the Forest Service needs an opportunity to implement a new planning rule for the benefit of the American people."

    ~ Dale Bosworth, Former Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

    "It is vital that the Planning Rule be modernized to enrich the contribution of a local National Forest or Grassland, within the context of its statutory mandates and obligations, to natural resource conservation at the landscape level. The preferred alternative will facilitate the contribution of the individual National Forest or Grassland to statewide and regional fish and wildlife conservation objectives.

    A modernized rule provides for better integration of National Forest System management with other landscape conservation initiatives such as the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, National Fish Habitat Partnerships, and in facilitating fish, wildlife and plant adaptation response to climate change. The State Fish and Wildlife Agencies look forward to greater successful delivery of conservation on the ground through implementation of the new planning rule."

    ~ Gary Taylor, Legislative Director, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

    “The National Forest System is a haven for Americans seeking a stronger connection with their families and nature through healthy outdoor recreational pursuits. The preferred alternative will support these sustainable recreational experiences, and will increase the involvement of the public in planning efforts.

    We expect this new collaborative process to result in better, more broadly supported outcomes for these treasured public lands and their enjoyment. We look forward to working with the U.S. Forest Service on the first plan revisions carried out under a new rule when it is finalized in the near future.”

    ~ Kevin Colburn, National Stewardship Director, American Whitewater

    “Forests cover one-third of the United States; store and filter half the nation’s water supply; provide jobs to more than a million wood products workers; absorb nearly 20% of U.S. carbon emissions; offer 650 million acres of recreational lands that generate well over $15 billion in economic activity annually; and provide habitat for thousands of species across the country. Yet our forests today face a “perfect storm” of threats, including catastrophic wildfires, outbreaks of pests and disease, poorly planned roads, increasing development, climate change, and policies that lead to gridlock rather than restoration.

    A new Forest Planning Rule is sorely needed, and the preferred alternative is a positive proposal based on extensive public participation. It will allow plans to be developed more efficiently. The preferred alternative encourages restoration treatments that are needed to catch up to the problems our forests face. And it strengthens science requirements, giving science a clear role that can bring stakeholders together to strengthen long-term forest conservation. Most people born in 1982 have kids by now; it’s time for a new generation of Forest Planning, too.”

    ~ Laura McCarthy, Senior Forest Policy Lead, The Nature Conservancy

    Tom Tidwell is Chief of the U.S. Forest Service