Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • Taking Action to Protect our Nation from Climate Change Impacts

    Across the United States and the world, climate change is already affecting communities, livelihoods, and the environment.  We must understand and adapt to a changing climate, including more frequent extreme weather events such as heat waves, drought and floods, and continued sea level rise.  Taking action now to manage climate risks can be viewed as an insurance policy for the Nation's future health and economic prosperity.  The Federal Government will work in partnership with states and local communities to help make our nation more resilient and prepared to address the challenges and opportunities that will arise from a changing climate.

    By considering how climate change may affect people, businesses, and communities, as well as its own services, operations, and assets, the Federal Government will be in a better position to promote economic growth and enhance our security.  Working with diverse stakeholders, Federal agencies are preparing for a range of climate and extreme weather impacts that put people, property, local economies, and ecosystems at risk.

    To highlight these actions, today we are releasing a new report that outlines the Federal Government's progress in expanding and strengthening the Nation's capacity to better understand, prepare for, and respond to extreme events and other climate change impacts.  This report, produced by the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force, provides an update on actions in key areas of Federal adaptation, including: building resilience in local communities, safeguarding critical natural resources such as freshwater, and providing accessible climate information and tools to help decision-makers manage climate risks. 

    Click here to read the full 2011 report.

    Based in part on numerous listening sessions and public outreach events with a wide range of stakeholders, "Federal Actions for a Climate Resilient Nation: Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force," highlights the progress toward implementing those recommendations.  This report follows the Task Force's October 2010 Progress Report to the President that recommended the Federal Government strengthen the Nation's capacity to better understand and manage climate-related risks.

    The 2010 Progress Report identified freshwater resources as a priority area for greater attention.  On June 2, 2011, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a draft "National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate," for public review and comment. Today, CEQ also announced the final Action Plan that responds to public input.  This final Plan will be the foundation for Federal agency efforts to manage freshwater resources as the climate changes.  It is designed to help freshwater resource managers assure adequate water supplies, safeguard water quality and aquatic ecosystems, and protect human life, health and property.

    Click here to read the full Managing Freshwater Action Plan.

    The Obama Administration remains committed to protecting the Nation from the critical impacts of climate change.  Responding to demand from local, state, and Tribal governments and communities, the Task Force will focus in coming years on reducing the Nation's vulnerability to extreme weather and climate events; enhancing regional coordination among Federal and non-Federal actors; strengthening and leveraging non-Federal partnerships; and implementing Federal agency adaptation planning.  The Task Force will provide an update on Federal adaptation progress in March 2014, following the release of the 2013 National Climate Assessment Synthesis Report.

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

    Dr. Jane Lubchenco is Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    Dr. Steve Fetter is Principal Assistant Director of Environment for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

  • We Can Clean the Air, Create Jobs and Power the Economy at the Same Time

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Ralph Izzo, Chairman, President and CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group.

    As one of the largest electricity generators in the U.S., we, at Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), believe that EPA's air pollutant regulations should be viewed as an opportunity to modernize the nation's electric power infrastructure. PSEG has been a long-time advocate of these Clean Air Act regulations and has put its money where its mouth is, investing over one and a half billion dollars in improvements to its coal-fired plants. These regulations will not only improve air quality for our nation's citizens, but will also create jobs and an active marketplace for emissions trading.

    Frankly, action is long overdue. The air pollutant regulations proposed by EPA are in response to the D.C. Circuit's rejection of two rules (the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and the Clean Air Mercury Rule) originally proposed by the Bush Administration. Thus, these regulations do not come out of the blue. The regulatory process for regulating toxic air emissions commenced over two decades ago, and the court concluded CAIR was "fundamentally flawed" in 2008. 

    For our part at PSEG, we believed it made good business sense to be proactive in positioning our generation fleet to meet what the rules would require.  During the past five years, we have invested more than $2 billion to replace inefficient, older generating units and upgrade our existing facilities in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. These air quality standards are achievable with the appropriate investment. For example, nearly 60 percent of all coal-fired boilers that submitted data to EPA are currently achieving the Utility Toxics Rule's proposed mercury standards. Existing pollution control technologies have demonstrated their mettle, and they need to be further deployed throughout the nation.

    Our experience shows that it is possible to clean the air, create jobs, and power the economy at the same time. For example, our New Jersey coal plants with their various pollution-control systems have been able to reduce, by over 90 percent, emissions of mercury, acid gases and soot. Installing the systems created approximately 1,600 construction jobs and enabled us to add dozens of full-time positions. We are proud of these results and proud to have facilities that are among the cleanest coal stations in America. 

    Reliability is a critical consideration at all times in the electric power industry. We believe our industry is capable of meeting these clean air rules while maintaining electric system reliability. The U.S. bulk power system, at an aggregate level, has adequate spare capacity to absorb potential retirements. Many of the uncontrolled units, which are most likely to retire, are smaller, inefficient units and companies are already making retirement decisions independent of the Utility Toxics Rule due to fundamental economics. Moreover, the electric industry has a proven track record of adding additional generating capacity and transmission solutions when and where needed and of coordinating effectively to address reliability concerns.

    The Clean Air Act gives affected sources three years from the issuance of the final rules to comply with the regulations. Further, if there are isolated reliability issues in areas of heavy demand as a result of implementing the air regulations affecting the electric sector, existing risk management procedures under the Clean Air Act, the Federal Power Act, and other statutes already provide EPA, the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the President with tools to address unforeseen impacts on electric system reliability on an individual basis.

    Simply put, the time is overdue to implement the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Doing so will help provide much needed certainty to invest in capital-intensive projects such as power plants that operate for 40 years or longer. Having these regulations in place will make it clear what the energy industry needs to do. In contrast, any significant delay for these rules will only perpetuate uncertainty where clarity is needed. The time for action is now.

    Ralph Izzo is Chairman, President and CEO of Public Service Enterprise Group

  • Leading by Example: GSA Electrifies the Fleet; Delivers First Electric Vehicle to Navy

    Editor's Note: This blog introduces readers to Michael J. Robertson, Chief of Staff of the U.S. General Services Administration.

    In 2009, when President Obama issued his Executive Order 13514 challenging the Federal Government to lead by example by improving energy, environmental, and economic performance, GSA answered the call. As the federal government's fleet operator, we have leveraged our portfolio to drive cost-saving, fuel efficient initiatives across the federal government. Each year, we have procured thousands of fuel efficient vehicles to replace older, less efficient ones. We also continue to improve management of about two-thirds of the Federal fleet, while directly increasing the fuel efficiency of the vehicles we own and lease to federal agencies— about 210,000 vehicles in total.

    In fiscal year 2010, GSA successfully doubled the federal hybrid fleet, without increasing the total number of vehicles overall, resulting in a fleet fuel efficiency improvement equivalent to reducing petroleum consumption by an estimated 7.7 million gallons of gasoline or 385,000 barrels of oil. To build on this, in May we launched our electric vehicle pilot to integrate these advanced vehicles and infrastructure into the federal government fleet for the first time. Last week, GSA delivered the pilot program's first plug-in electric vehicle to the Department of the Navy.

    Chevy Volt

    Navy receives the first Federal plug-in electric.

    The Department of the Navy has been a leader in energy security and their Chevy Volt will be one of many vehicles incorporated into the electric vehicle fleet.  As vehicles for GSA's electric vehicle pilot begin to roll off the assembly line, we will continue deliveries to the 20 Federal agencies across the country participating in our pilot. As we help agencies move toward the President's goals to reduce petroleum consumption and achieve 100% advanced fuel vehicle purchases by 2015, we are also supporting the President's plan to put one million advanced vehicles on the road by that same date. Annually, the plug-in electric vehicles in our pilot are expected to save nearly 29,000 gallons of gas, reduce GHG emissions by 257 metric tons, and save taxpayer dollars in avoided fuel costs.

    In just over two years, we have procured vehicles that were on average nearly 25 percent more fuel-efficient than the vehicles they replaced. Currently, roughly 50 percent of GSA's 210,000 leased vehicles are alternative fuel vehicles. Our commitment doesn't stop here. The President also directed GSA to develop and distribute a Vehicle Allocation Methodology (VAM), a standard way to ensure that each vehicle in an agency's fleet is correctly sized and is appropriate for accomplishing the agency mission. The VAM will help agencies identify opportunities to incorporate alternative fuel vehicles and identify and eliminate unnecessary vehicles from their fleets.

    GSA will continue to lead the Federal Government toward more sustainable fleet solutions that cut our petroleum use and save tax payer dollars for a cleaner, more secure energy future.

    To learn more on GSA's fleet management initiatives, check out this year's annual GreenGov Symposium, to be held in Washington, D.C. this Monday, October 31st through November 2nd.

    Michael J. Robertson is Chief of Staff of the U.S. General Services Administration

  • Coming Soon to a Delivery Route Near You: Cleaner Trucks

    Last week, I joined CEQ Deputy Director Gary Guzy as he kicked off an impressive convoy of electric, hybrid, and other advanced technology heavy-duty trucks in Baltimore. The Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) 2011 conference and expo – a collaboration of the clean transportation organization CALSTART and the U.S. Army's National Automotive Center  – brought together the top innovators of the trucking industry, from suppliers of advanced components and large truck manufacturers to fleet owners like Coca-Cola and UPS. 

    HTUF is a good example of the successful public-private partnerships that this Administration looks to foster. For the conference attendees, the "ride and drive" convoy was an opportunity to show off and try out fuel efficient and all-electric trucks of all shapes and sizes, many rolling through streets across the country today and others destined for tomorrow's delivery routes. For me, it was an exciting look at cutting-edge technologies and a reminder of the value of policies that foster this innovation.

    HTUF 2011

    CEQ Deputy Director Gary Guzy in the driver's seat of a hydraulic hybrid garbage truck.

    From day one, the Administration has supported investments in breakthrough clean energy technologies that will reduce air pollution, address climate change, improve our nation's energy security, help our industry outcompete the rest of the world, and drive long-term economic growth. For example:

    • Thanks to investments in clean energy, the U.S. is on track to produce 40% of the world's batteries for advanced vehicles by 2015, a major leap from producing just 2% of the world's batteries prior to the Recovery Act. 
    • A Presidential Memorandum issued this May directs agencies to implement government-wide fleet management practices that will ensure the Federal Government is leading by example, purchasing 100% alternative fuel vehicles by 2015 and reducing oil consumption by 30% by 2020.
    • Through public-private partnerships like the National Clean Fleets Partnership and EPA's SmartWay program, the Administration is helping large companies and the trucking industry reduce diesel and gasoline use in their fleets and incorporate electric vehicles, alternative fuels, and fuel-saving measures.
    • This summer, the Administration finalized first-ever fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy duty trucks. This is on top of the President's announcement of a framework for proposed fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks that would double the efficiency of our light duty vehicle fleet by 2025.

    With investment in technology innovation and standards that level the playing field for cleaner technologies to compete, the streets of our cities and towns will begin to look more like last week's convoy in Baltimore. Among the trucks on parade were class 8 tractor trailer hybrids, a class 8 fuel cell truck, hydraulic hybrid garbage trucks (interesting side note: EPA played a lead role in developing this technology), all-electric delivery vans and buses, hybrid work trucks, and bucket trucks with electrified boom lifts that eliminate the need to leave engines idling.

    Ride and Drive Convoy

    Some of the hybrid, electric, and other advanced-technology trucks on display at the Hybrid Truck Users Forum 2011 "ride and drive" convoy. Photo courtesy of CALSTART.

    Not only will weekly garbage pick-up bring less pollution to your neighborhood, but many of the cutting edge technology innovations will find their way into other applications – in our cars, small trucks, and even our military vehicles. If you wondered why the U.S. Army co-sponsored a hybrid truck event, it's because the technology being tested in delivery trucks today can help reduce fuel use on the battlefield tomorrow. Announcing the Department of Defense Operational Energy Strategy recently, the Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn, explained the impact of our military's fuel dependence:

    [T]he costs of that energy use aren't just financial, they are strategic and tactical. All too often those costs can be measured in lives lost moving and guarding fuel on the battlefield. These risks and costs associated with our energy use mean that we must change the way we manage energy on the battlefield, and strive to reduce demand at all levels of our forces.

    Finally, last week's technology showcase wasn't just a window into America's future; it was a glimpse of the future of transportation worldwide and the business opportunities for U.S. industry. Demand is growing across the globe for cleaner transportation options that use less fuel and create less pollution, and U.S. companies are positioning themselves to lead this market. At the conference last week, CALSTART kicked off a U.S.-China Clean Truck Technology Forum to help connect clean truck and bus technology firms with partners in China. This project is funded by a grant from the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration, which looks for opportunities to translate American business leadership into trade opportunities abroad. 

    As the President said on his first Earth Day in office,

    Now, the choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline. We can remain the world's leading importer of oil, or we can become the world's leading exporter of clean energy. We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc across the landscape, or we can create jobs working to prevent its worst effects. We can hand over the jobs of the 21st century to our competitors, or we can confront what countries in Europe and Asia have already recognized as both a challenge and an opportunity: The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st-century global economy.

    We can be that nation, and from the leadership and innovation on display last week, I'd say we are on the road to get there.

    Drew McConville is Deputy Associate Director for Energy & Climate Change at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

  • GreenGov 2011: Connecting you with sustainability leaders for a leaner, greener, and more efficient government

    For the second year, we're hosting the GreenGov Symposium to bring leaders in sustainability together under one roof. Beginning in 2009 when President Obama issued Executive Order 13514, he challenged the Federal Government— the biggest energy consumer in the US economy, to become leaner, greener, and more efficient.

     

    GreenGov

    Held in Washington, DC, the three day symposium is your chance to partake in over 70 educational sessions beginning at 8:30 AM on Monday, October 31. Register now to join in discussions with:

    • The next generation of Clean Energy and Green leaders, including award-winning journalist Simran Sethi, and renowned explorer, social entrepreneur, and environmental advocate Philippe Cousteau Jr., on how they want to see the Federal Government lead by example.
    • Drivers in corporate innovation, in a panel conversation on sustainability strategies, hosted by Mother Nature Network and moderator Dr. Heidi Cullen.
    • Federal leaders like those from the Department of Defense, and their work with the private sector to develop large-scale renewable energy projects. Come meet Dr. Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment.

    And hear directly from these and other experts how:

    • The Federal Government is greening its half-trillion dollar supply chain. Listen to Steve Leeds, GSA's Senior Sustainability Officer, in a conversation with Cindy Drucker, Global Director of Sustainability for SC Johnson.
    • The Federal Government has collaborated to make major strides in greener operations and practices. Join me, along with Mother Nature Network; Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council; Jon Powers, Special Advisor on Energy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army; Michael Robertson, General Services Administration Chief of Staff; and Rachael Tronstein, Clean Energy Advisor at the Department of Energy as they discuss how they are collaborating across government toward greener Federal buildings, fleets, and programs.

    You will also hear from:
    Thomas Armstrong, Director of National Coordination, U.S. Global Change Research Program, White House Office of Science and Technology;
    Tom Hicks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, U.S. Navy;
    Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency, U.S. Department of Energy;
    Jason Miller, Special Assistant to the President for Manufacturing Policy, Executive Office of the President of the United States;
    Robert Peck, Commissioner, Public Buildings Sector, U.S. General Services Administration; and
    Tim Unruh, Program Manager, Federal Energy Management Program, U.S. Department of Energy.
     
    You won’t want to miss GreenGov 2011. Learn more, see the full agenda, and register at www.greengov2011.org.

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

  • Advancing Partnerships to Better Buildings

    Editor's Note: The blog introduces readers to Krista Sprenger, Vice President, Director of Sustainability for Lend Lease—  an international property and infrastructure group that was one of the first partners in President Obama's Better Buildings Challenge.

    "The time is not far off when companies will have to justify their worth to society…with greater emphasis being placed on environmental and social impact than straight economics." - Lend Lease Founder, Dick Dusseldorp

    Our founder had a basic principle that our company was part of the community and that we had a responsibility to focus on the environmental and the social value we might add. We strive to apply global best-practices and innovative, responsible environmental design initiatives and are committed to promoting energy efficiency, utilizing alternative energy sources with an overall target of designing communities that are zero net water, waste and carbon neutral. This is why partnering with the Department of Energy and the White House for the Better Buildings Challenge just made sense. 

    To support the Better Buildings Challenge, Lend Lease has set a goal to reduce energy consumption by 20% within our Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI) portfolio over the next 3-5 years. Our participation in the Better Buildings Challenge will mean more than 65.3 million square feet of real estate will be greener and in turn we will help American military families bring energy security home and most importantly create new jobs in the construction industry. 

    The Lend Lease Team

    Recently, representatives from all 10 Lend Lease projects met to validate their commitment to the program. An all-day meeting, focused on the goals and outcomes of the BBC, allowed all participants to understand the program and hear how their project can support. (BELOW) Participants from Lend Lease gather for a photo around the contract they all signed agreeing to do their part to help meet our goal.

    To achieve our reduction goals, we are taking a three pronged approach as part of the Challenge. We will continue our green retrofit program, and have hired residential building science specialists, IBACOS, to help us assess our portfolio and ensure we are implementing innovative and customized whole building energy retrofit and management solutions which reduce consumption and offer more efficient homes. To reduce grid consumption we will be significantly broadening our solar portfolio as well as incorporate additional renewable power options such as wind and geothermal. Finally, we will begin an aggressive behavior management/energy consumption reduction program aimed at teaching the 140,000 people who live or work in one of our communities how they can best conserve energy within their home and take personal responsibility to support a sustainable environment. 

    The Better Buildings Challenge allows Lend Lease to partner with like-minded organizations, like the Department of Energy, to support an initiative we strongly believe in. We are honored to be one of only 14 companies chosen to participate in the initial launch of the program, and look forward to continuing our partnership for years to come. 

    Krista Sprenger is Vice President, Director of Sustainability for the Lend Lease Americas region