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ASHRAE Government Affairs Update, 2/7/2014

GGAC Regional and Chapter Activities

Jon Symko, Grassroots Government Activities (GGAC) Regional Vice-Chair (RVC) for Region VIII, organized a conference call for the GGAC Chairs in Texas. This call, the first since GGAC became an official committee of ASHRAE, is to begin the crucial work of organizing our members in their local areas. Of particular interest were recently enacted pieces of legislation from the Texas legislature and making sure that the Governor issues a proclamation recognizing Engineers’ Week

In North Carolina, the GGAC Chair for the Triangle Chapter, R. Timothy Ashby, recently issued a letter to NC Governor Patrick McCrory urging him to oppose any measures that may propose pushing the building and safety code update cycle back or reverting to earlier versions of the codes.

Interested in getting involved in grassroots government activities, or have some information you’d like to pass along? Contact Jim Scarborough, ASHRAE’s Manager of Grassroots Government Affairs, at [email protected] or 202-833-1830.


Tenant Energy Efficiency Legislation Receives Bipartisan Approval by U.S. House Committee

Tenants can consume 50 percent or more of their buildings’ total energy; as a result, the choices tenants and building occupants make significantly affect overall building efficiency. In recognition of this, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently approved the Better Buildings Act (H.R.2126) with strong bipartisan support from both Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and the Senior-most Democrat of the Committee, Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA).

The Better Buildings Act, also referred to as “Tenant Star”, encourages landlords and tenants work together to improve energy efficiency by supporting best practices for high-performance tenant “fit-outs” that more closely meet tenants’ needs without over-building. The Act would also establish a new voluntary “Tenant Star” program. Modeled after the highly successful ENERGY STAR label, this program would create energy efficiency recognition opportunities for commercial building tenants.

The Better Buildings Act would also encourage the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to develop model leasing provisions to help catalyze greater cooperation between private sector building owners and federal tenants on energy efficiency.

The Act is supported by a wide range of stakeholders and technical societies (including ASHRAE), who sent a letter to Committee on this bill.

The bill was introduced by Representatives David McKinley (R-WV) - one of the few engineers in Congress – and Peter Welch (D-VT). Representatives McKinley and Welch serve as the Co-Chairs of the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus, which was formed to heighten awareness and inform policymakers about the major impact buildings have on our health, safety and welfare and the opportunities to design, construct and operate high-performance buildings that reflect our concern for these impacts.

The Caucus is supported by the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition (HPBCCC). The HPBCCC is a private sector group of over 200 organizations representing a uniquely wide array of stakeholders. The Coalition is Co-Chaired by Doug Read, ASHRAE’s Director of Government Affairs and Dain Hansen, IAPMO’s Vice President of Government Relations.


Congress Approves National Farm Bill – Contains Building Energy Efficiency Provisions

Earlier this week Congress gave final approval to the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the Farm Bill (H.R.2642). President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law today.

The Farm Bill is a sprawling 357 pages, covering a wide range of areas – among them, building energy efficiency. In this area, the bill will require the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to submit a report to Congress that contains:

  • An      analysis of energy use by the USDA headquarters and major regional      facilities.
  • A list of      energy audits that have been conducted at such facilities.
  • A list of      energy efficiency projects that have been conducted at such facilities.
  • A list of      energy savings projects that could be achieved with enacting a consistent,      timely, and proper mechanical insulation maintenance program and upgrading      mechanical insulation at such facilities.


Energy Efficiency May Become Lower Priority in U.S. Senate Following Committee Leadership Change

Earlier this week the U.S. Senate confirmed Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) as the new U.S. Ambassador to China. As a result, Senator Baucus will leave the Senate – and his Chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) will become the new Finance Committee Chair and concurrently step down from his post as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee – the committee with jurisdiction over energy efficiency legislation such as Shaheen-Portman.

Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) will become the new Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and will likely encourage the Committee to work on issues most important to her and Louisiana. While Senator Landrieu supports energy efficiency, it is not one of her top priorities. Instead, she will likely be more focused on oil, gas, and related issues.

The change in Committee leadership certainly does not spell the end for energy efficiency legislation such as Shaheen-Portman, however some pressure for Senate action may be lost as Senators focus on their new leadership roles. The end result will be that energy efficiency proponents will have to work extra hard to get Shaheen-Portman passed in the Senate.


Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy Addresses Nation’s Energy Policy

Recently ASHRAE staff had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Ernest Moniz, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, at the 2014 Energy Policy Outlook Conference sponsored by the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO). Coming shortly after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, Dr. Moniz highlighted a number of comments from the President’s speech that emphasized energy independent, renewables and productivity. 

Of particular interest was his comment regarding the diversity needed in a national energy policy. It is important, he said, that the nation’s energy policy not be monolithic in its approach. Rather, the diversity in our states and regions will oblige us to create a policy that allows for this diversity.

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