Council on Environmental Quality Blog
- Posted byon March 29, 2012 at 9:45 AM EST
Last week, GSA announced the Deep Retrofit Challenge, which challenges the private sector to bring innovative, energy saving retrofits to Federal buildings and to take performance-based contracts to the next level. These retrofit projects create jobs, and performance-based contracts provide government with decades of lower utility bills and long term cost savings without an up front investment from the taxpayers.
The Deep Retrofit Challenge is offering 30 buildings across the country, totaling nearly 17 million square feet, that will use Energy Service Performance Contracts (ESPCs) to make existing buildings more energy efficient. ESPCs retrofit buildings for guaranteed greater energy performance at no net cost to taxpayers. The retrofit projects are paid for through energy savings over time.
Last December, President Obama announced nearly $4 billion in commitments to perform energy efficiency upgrades to buildings over the next two years. Two billion dollars of this effort will come from the private sector through upgrading manufacturing facilities, retail stores, universities, and other buildings. Up to $2 billion more will come from Federal buildings through the use of ESPCs, which the President directed in a Presidential Memorandum to all government agencies. GSA’s Deep Retrofit Challenge will contribute to the President's performance contracting goals for the Federal government.
As the President said, performance-based contracts are a “triple win”-- they create jobs, offer guaranteed energy savings, and they come at no cost to taxpayers. Through an ESPC, building owners leverage private funds to perform energy efficiency upgrades. When the work is done, money will be saved on energy costs. Federal buildings are built to last, and these contracts span a maximum of 25 years; therefore, the Federal government stands to reap the benefits of energy and cost savings for decades without making an initial investment.
GSA already has extensive experience with performance contracting. Since 1998, GSA has contracted over $460 million in ESPCs through the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program. GSA owns roughly 182 million square feet of space in over 1,500 buildings nationwide, and we are eagerly reviewing our owned building portfolio to determine where we can best use ESPCs to increase energy efficiency.
In addition to the Presidential Memorandum on Implementation of Energy Savings Projects and Performance-Based Contracting issued in December 2011, President Obama issued Executive Order 13514 on Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance in 2009, which requires agencies to meet a number of energy, water, and waste reduction targets in existing Federal buildings. Performance based contracts help Federal agencies to meet these benchmarks and to become more sustainable.
Martha Johnson is Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration
- Posted byon March 23, 2012 at 5:26 PM EST
Working with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners is critical to President Obama’s vision of an economy built to last, one where rural communities provide clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat to generate economic opportunities for outdoor recreation and jobs, while protecting farm and ranch traditions. Working Lands for Wildlife demonstrates the President’s focus on the rural economy and his commitment to keep working lands working.
Knowing I was speaking to an audience passionate about wildlife, I took a moment to revisit a time from 100 years ago when Theodore Roosevelt addressed a similar group, saying, "There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country." People of all political persuasions have found commonality around the fundamental principle of conservation—a principle that has always recognized the importance of wildlife.
Working Lands for Wildlife is a partnership between the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make measurable progress in wildlife conservation through focused community-driven, locally led efforts across America.
To engage private landowners, NRCS has committed $33 million to share in the cost of conservation practices benefiting the bog turtle, golden-winged warbler, gopher tortoise, greater sage-grouse, lesser prairie-chicken, New England cottontail and the Southwestern willow flycatcher. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will work to provide landowners with regulatory certainty and tools to assist them in making long-term business decisions.
This collaborative approach builds on the success we are realizing in the Western U.S. with NRCS’s Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI), where ranchers are projected to have increased sage grouse populations by 8 to 10 percent through wildlife habitat conservation practices such as prescribed grazing, brush management and fence flagging.
Through SGI, on the Bedortha Ranch in central Oregon, intensive efforts to boost sage grouse habitat are underway. As part of that effort, crews have cut and flattened invasive juniper trees. These trees have expanded beyond their historic locations into sagebrush terrain throughout the West, out-competing other valuable shrubs and plants that provide habitat for the ground-dwelling sage-grouse.
As the junipers increased on his ranch, Gary Bedortha watched the sage-grouse population decline. “When I was a kid growing up in this country, I knew some of these draws had an excess of 100 sage grouse—you would ride through the draws and the whole ground would move in front of you. At that time, we didn’t have the juniper like we do now,” Bedortha said.
This ranch is only one example of the success we can accomplish on private lands. Bedortha used the information and financial assistance he received from NRCS to remove nearly 7,000 acres of invading juniper in less than three years. We know taking a focused approach to wildlife conservation maximizes the public’s investment and return.
We hope to increase populations for all seven focal species targeted by Working Lands for Wildlife. Americans dedicated to wildlife conservation on private lands will ensure that it is not only an effective tool for wildlife but that it works as a viable tool for outdoor recreation, jobs and opportunities to create rural wealth.
Since the White House Rural Council was established last June, the Council has provided a forum for increasing conservation work and creating jobs in rural America. The Working Lands for Wildlife joint partnership between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior exemplifies the progress we can achieve through the work of the Rural Council.
Harris Sherman is Undersecretary for USDA’s Natural Resources and Environment
- Posted byon March 19, 2012 at 9:45 AM EST
Success Stories Highlighted
On Wednesday, the White House Rural Council sponsored a Working Lands and Healthy Watersheds roundtable. The Rural Council, established last June, provides a forum for discussing how to support conservation work and create jobs in rural America. This week's roundtable brought together folks from across the country with experience in farming, ranching, conservation, and water quality to share their experience in how to more effectively and efficiently invest resources to improve water quality for rural communities.
The roundtable was an opportunity to celebrate some of the good work already happening and to share innovative ideas for continuing progress. We heard how leaders from three states successfully used EPA Section 319 grant program and USDA Farm Bill conservation programs to improve water quality in critical watersheds. We also heard about what stakeholders most need to carry out new and long-term on-the-ground efforts, and how EPA and USDA can improve their support for those efforts at the local scale.
Some of the themes that emerged from the session are:
- Partnerships and On-the-Ground Leadership are essential to success. It takes time to forge the relationships that lead to results.
- Stakeholder Education and Engagement helps landowners and producers understand their broader role and tie their actions to a broader community and mission.
- Using a Watershed Scale Approach creates a community for all who impact or depend on the watershed.
- Flexibility is essential to success on the ground, and allows stakeholders to work strategically and to leverage resources to support watershed efforts.
- Tracking the outcomes and impact of projects over time is critical to success and assists in identifying where further investments are needed.
The nation's rural landowners, farmers, ranchers, and forest owners are often our best environmental stewards, providing clean water and wildlife habitat from the healthy, functioning watersheds on their lands. We are committed to supporting this good work, and look forward to continuing the conversation about partnerships that support farmers, ranchers, forest owners, and the healthy watersheds communities depend on.
Here's what some of the roundtable participants had to say about the discussion:
Successful water quality improvement projects appear to be united by four primary themes. Positive relationships between landowners/land operators and the agency specialists that facilitate projects are a critical first step to success. Access to, and understanding of, water monitoring and practice performance data leads to setting goals, targeting implementation and measuring outcomes at the watershed level. Coordination and information sharing between partners expedites the process of implementing watershed improvement plans. Versatility in how funding can be used from public and private sources can lead to unexpected opportunities and benefits.
It's easy to see we have the system in place to provide great technical expertise, but we need to incorporate lessons learned from watershed project successes around the country and utilize a strategy that facilitates and empowers watershed communities, priming individuals to act.
~ Chad Ingels, Extension Watershed Specialist, Iowa State University Extension
Voluntary efforts to address nonpoint source pollution can work. The trick is you need strong partnerships with local entities like conservation districts that have a positive history with landowners You also must coordinate programs from EPA 319 and USDA to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. This, combined with monitoring data to assess the effects of best management practices on tributaries, has achieved show significant reductions in nonpoint source pollution in many priority watersheds.
~ Clay Pope, Executive Director, Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts
Farmers in the U.S. have made tremendous strides over the past several decades toward increasing production while at the same time improving environmental conservation. EPA Section 319 grants and USDA Farm Bill conservation programs have played an important role in supporting the voluntary adoption of best management practices. Using a watershed approach, we are also able to more accurately measure how conservation practices are directly improving water quality in a particular region, which in turn helps farmers and landowners focus our efforts.
As the world's population increases to 9 billion people by 2050, we understand that agricultural producers will be expected to do more with less. We have a finite amount of land, water and other natural resources; however, through research, technology development and support from federal programs, American farmers will continue to produce the most abundant and affordable supply of food, feed, fuel and fiber in the world. We will be equipped to meet growing demand while also preparing to pass along the land, better than we found it, to the next generation of producers.
~ Rod Snyder, National Corn Growers Association
Ann Mills is Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at USDA
Larry Elworth is Chief Agriculture Counselor at EPA
- Posted byon March 14, 2012 at 1:25 PM EST
President Obama has called for an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and one way we can prepare for the future is to engage students in creating energy solutions for the future. Recently, students from across the country came to the White House to present their ideas for energy efficient buildings. University teams—led by their respective energy club—tackled cases that focus on a number of the most common, most stubborn barriers to energy efficiency in both the private sector and in state and local settings. The students came from a variety of academic programs, including engineering, real estate, business/management, and policy.
The cases use real scenarios, information, and data provided by Better Buildings Challenge Partners and others in the commercial buildings industry. Students presented on two city policy scenarios and two private real estate scenarios, answering questions such as, "What is the best mechanism to significantly move the energy efficiency market?" Their creative and innovative solutions addressed policy, finance, business and real estate challenges.
This forum provides the next generation of engineers, entrepreneurs and policymakers with skills and experience to start careers in clean energy and generates creative solutions to real-world problems to be used as models by businesses and other organizations across the marketplace.
The event supported the Better Buildings Challenge, a national energy efficiency leadership initiative and a core element of President Obama's plan to make commercial buildings 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020. In addition to supporting significant energy reduction, the Better Buildings Challenge is focused on finding solutions to persistent barriers to energy efficiency that have limited the energy efficiency market.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the winners of the competition and congratulated them for their efforts to tackle some of the most common and stubborn barriers to improving energy efficiency.
Carnegie Mellon University
The George Washington University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Texas A&M University
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Irvine
University of Colorado, Denver
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Southern California
Read more on the President's Better Buildings Initiative.
Maria Vargas is Director of the Better Buildings Challenge at the U.S. Department of Energy
- Posted byon March 9, 2012 at 6:45 PM EST
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.
Nancy Sutley is Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
- Posted byon February 29, 2012 at 5:00 PM EST
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.
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
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