Subscribe via RSS

ASHRAE Government Affairs Update, 7/26/2013

Bipartisan Energy Efficiency Bill Likely to be Debated on U.S. Senate Floor Next Week; Many Amendments to Be Considered

For some three years the building community has been gearing up for floor debate on the next big bipartisan energy efficiency bill – the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S.761), also known as Shaheen-Portman. Next week the Senate may begin debate on, and possibly even pass this bill, which focuses on improving the energy efficiency of residential, commercial, and industrial buildings through support for building energy codes, workforce training, and financing for efficiency upgrades.

As with any bill of this nature, the path to debate and passage is not easy. Dozens of amendments have been proposed, some of which would improve the bill, while others threaten to completely derail passage. Two years ago the Senate came close to debating an earlier version of this bill; however it was pulled when agreement could not be reached on the number and type of amendments that would be offered. To prevent this scenario from playing out again, Senate leaders are seeking to limit debate to only those amendments that have garnered bipartisan support and are thus considered less controversial. Below is a list of amendments that will likely be considered:

  • All-of-the-Above Federal Building Energy Conservation Act (S.1199) – Would change fossil fuel energy consumption reduction requirements, and add new energy efficiency provisions for federal buildings.
  • Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act (S.717) – Would establish a pilot program to award grants to nonprofit organizations for energy efficiency retrofits.
  • Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act (S.1084) – Would establish the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating federal, state, and local assistance provided to promote the energy retrofitting of schools.
  • Better Buildings Act (S.1191) (also known as Tenant Star) – Would build on the success of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR for Buildings program and establish a voluntary new “Tenant Star” program to certify leased spaces in buildings as energy efficient.

Several other amendments could be offered, and efforts are ongoing to line-up Republican and Democratic support for the various proposals.

Despite the frenzy of activity, Senate consideration of Shaheen-Portman could be delayed until after Congress returns from its August recess, which begins at the end of next week, as the Senate must still work its way through fiscal year 2014 funding issues, student loan interest rates, and possibly other issues before turning its attention to energy efficiency.

For additional information, please contact Mark Ames, ASHRAE’s Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs, at [email protected].


Energy Efficient Buildings Hub in Jeopardy Following Move by U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee

Fiscal Year 2014 funding for the Energy Efficient Buildings (EEB) Hub is in jeopardy following a recommendation by the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee to zero funding for and terminate the Hub in the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2014 (S.1245). The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its bill earlier this year, and now awaits consideration on the Senate floor. A date for floor consideration has not yet been set. The House-passed version of this bill (H.R.2609) does not recommend the EEB Hub’s termination.

The EEB Hub was established in 2011, and is headquartered in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard. The Hub’s goal is to find pathways of reducing energy use in commercial buildings by 20% by 2020. According to the Hub’s website,

“The EEB Hub performs research to develop and integrate materials, technologies, models, and tools to optimize whole building energy performance. Research results are demonstrated in buildings and effects are measured and cycled back to refine and guide continued research for further optimization of whole building performance. The Hub scales adoption of proven solutions by addressing business and finance, education and training, and other issues.

“The Hub is a dynamic performance-driven organization comprising 25 organizations including major research universities, global industrial firms, and national laboratories from across the United States. More than 150 senior investigators and 90 graduate students are actively engaged in EEB Hub research projects.”

ASHRAE is a Partner of the Hub, and ASHRAE’s current President, Bill Bahnfleth, serves on the Hub’s Advisory Board as Treasurer and ASHRAE representative.

The Senate Appropriations Committee explained the rationale for the Hub’s recommended termination in the report that accompanied S.1245:

“Unlike the other Hubs, which have clear goals and timeframes, the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub never established key deliverables within the 5 year award period. The Hub was more focused on the economic development of the Philadelphia area rather than developing a national program to improve the energy efficiency of commercial and residential buildings across the United States. In addition, most of the activities described in the Hub’s program plan are already being addressed by core programs in the [U.S. Department of Energy's] Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Last year, an independent review team found that this Hub was poorly managed and lacked measurable goals. Despite efforts by the Department [of Energy] to help improve management of the Hub and establish key deliverables within the 5 year award period, the Committee has seen no improvement.”

ASHRAE is currently working with interested stakeholders and Congressional offices to resolve the concerns of the Senate Appropriations Committee and explore preserving funding for the EEB Hub.

For additional information, please contact Mark Ames, ASHRAE’s Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs, at [email protected].


NIST FY 2014 Funding Recommendation at Odds in U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a federal agency that performs important research and development on a dizzying array of subjects, including: net-zero energy and high-performance buildings, building integration with the Smart Grid, metrics and tools for sustainable buildings projects, and a host of others related and unrelated to buildings.

To maintain these projects, NIST has a budget of over $700 million, and in a time of continuing national economic stress, Congress is split over whether to cut funding to help reduce the deficit, or increase spending to support NIST’s functions, which some Members of Congress see as vital to the economy.

NIST is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and as such, is funded through the annual Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Acts. Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee approved its version of this bill for fiscal year 2014 (H.R.2787). The Committee recommends cutting funding for NIST by $24.6 million. In contrast, the Senate Appropriations Committee also recently approved their version of the Commerce funding bill (S.1329), which recommends an increase in NIST funding of $140.6 million.

In a press statement, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who serves as both Chairwoman of the full Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce Subcommittee, said that the Senate’s recommended funding for NIST would enable “a set of initiatives that will catalyze innovations, develop measurements, and provide technical resources to promote the global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers and aspiring start-ups.”

(No similar, NIST-specific statement was released by House Republicans.)

Going forward, the House and Senate will seek to schedule floor time to debate and pass their respective versions of the Commerce funding bill; however little time remains. Congress is scheduled to leave for state and district work at the end of next week until the first week of September. With a total difference of over $4.8 million between the House and Senate Commerce bills, and only a few weeks before October 1, when the 2014 federal fiscal year begins, a short-term continuing resolution that maintains current funding levels is likely.

For additional information, please contact Mark Ames, ASHRAE’s Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs at [email protected].

Return to list