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ASHRAE Government Affairs Update, 12/19/2014

Federal Activities

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

 

Congress Finishes the Year with a Trillion Dollar Spending Bill, Defense Authorization, and One Last Push for Energy Efficiency Legislation

Funding

The last days of the 113th Congress were a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill. After much debate and arm-twisting, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus” spending bill, which includes full-year funding for all programs under 11 of the 12 appropriations bills, except those falling under the Homeland Security bill, for which funding only runs through February 2015.

Compared to fiscal year 2014, several programs administered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) received level funding, including the Energy Information Administration, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), and Office of Science. Overall, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) received a slight increase, however the Commercial Buildings Integration program, which helps accelerate the use of energy efficiency technologies and practices in new and existing buildings, had its funding reduced by 9%; funding for the Residential Buildings Integration program was likewise reduced by 5.6%. The Federal Energy Management Program’s funding level was cut by 4.4%. However, in one of the rare bright spots, the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides grants to states, territories, and some Indian tribes to improve the energy efficiency of homes for low-income families, was increased by 10.9%.

One area particularly hard-hit was DOE’s Building Technologies Office, which had its funding reduced by 19%. Similarly, the Equipment and Building Standards area, which addresses building energy codes and standards, was cut by 27.5%. The Cromnibus also included the following report language:

“Consistent with current policy, the Department [of Energy] is directed not to advocate, promote, or discourage the adoption or inclusion of a particular building energy code or code provision, other than the technical and economic analysis work required by statutory mandate, or to provide funding to private third parties or non-governmental organizations that engage in this type of advocacy.”

While somewhat troubling, this language does not require DOE to change its current activities or engagement with the development and promotion of building energy codes and standards.

 

Defense

Earlier this month, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 (H.R.3979), which guides U.S. defense programs, including military construction. Additional information on the NDAA is available here.

Included in the report for the NDAA is language supporting ICC 700 National Green Building Standard, as well as LEED and Green Globes:

“If a residential building project (including repair or remodeling project) is authorized by this Act or will be carried out using amounts appropriated pursuant to an authorization of appropriations in this Act and the project will be designed and constructed to meet an above code green building standard or rating system, the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of the military department concerned may use the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard, the LEED Green Building Standard System, the Green Globes Green Building Certification System, or an equivalent protocol developed using a voluntary consensus standard, as defined in Office of Management and Budget Circular Number A–119.”

ASHRAE is supportive of this reference and worked with several stakeholder organizations on this matter. Earlier this year agreed to jointly develop the 2015 version of ICC 700.

 

Energy Efficiency Legislation

Prior to Congress adjourning, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) sought to pass energy efficiency one last time by championing the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act (H.R.2126). This bill would help building owners and tenants overcome the split incentives of energy efficiency upgrades, in part by creating a voluntary new “Tenant Star” program. The program would provide tenants with recognition for efficiency improvements, similar to the current ENERGY STAR program for whole buildings.

The Energy Efficiency Improvement Act would also promote energy efficiency in federal data centers by requiring federal agencies to work with experts and key stakeholders to develop strategies and best practices for the use, maintenance, and procurement of energy saving information technologies.

Additionally, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act would improve federal building energy benchmarking by requiring federally leased space in buildings that have not received an ENERGY STAR label to be benchmarked by an online, free benchmarking program. The U.S. Department of Energy would also be required to conduct a study on the impact of state and local performance benchmarking and disclosure policies and associated building efficiency policies for commercial and multifamily buildings. This study would identify best practice policies that have resulted in the greatest improvements in building energy efficiency.

The bill also includes important provisions regarding grid-enabled water heaters, which are a priority of the rural electric cooperatives.

Notably, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act was sponsored and led by Representatives David McKinley (R-WV) – one of the few professional engineers in Congress – and Peter Welch (D-VT). Congressman McKinley and Welch are the Co-Chairs of the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus, which serves to as a coordination mechanism for buildings-related legislation in the House. The Caucus is supported by the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition (HPBCCC), which ASHRAE founded and Co-Chairs.

H.R.2126 passed the U.S. House this past spring by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin (375 – 36).

ASHRAE issued a targeted grassroots action alert to its members earlier this week in support of this bill, and coordinated efforts with several other coalitions and organizations. While feedback from Capitol Hill on these efforts was very positive, ultimately passage of the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act was prevented by Senator Patrick Toomey (R-PA), who objected to the bill on behalf of one of his colleagues. Senator Toomey was unwilling to state what the objections were, despite requests from several of his Republican colleagues.

Although this might appear to be a setback, it’s not all bad news, as it created significant momentum for the introduction and passage of energy efficiency legislation in the next (114th) Congress, and there are already signs that energy efficiency may be one of the first issues addressed by Congress next year.

 

ASHRAE to Submit Comments on DOE Rulemaking on Energy Conservation Standards for Small, Large, and Very Large Air-Cooled Commercial Package Air Conditioning and Heating Equipment

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has reopening the public comment period for a proposed rulemaking on energy conservation standards for small, large, and very large air-cooled commercial package air conditioning and heating equipment. The reopened comment period ends Monday, December 22, 2014. The original Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NOPR) references ASHRAE in several places, which is available here.

ASHRAE will submit comments on this rulemaking, and encourages all those interested to do so as well. To obtain information on how to submit comments during this extension, please click here.

 

 

GGAC Regional and Chapter Activities

For additional information on state, local, and international government affairs, please contact Jim Scarborough, ASHRAE’s Manager of Grassroots Government Affairs, at [email protected].

 

Atlanta City Council to Consider New Energy Efficiency Policies

A package of energy efficiency policies is now under review by the City of Atlanta. The package, which was introduced two weeks ago, includes building energy use benchmarking, public transparency, and audits and retro-commissioning every ten years for large commercial buildings (above 25,000 square feet). At one point, the City Council considered hearing the package last week but that public hearing and vote before the Community Development and Human Resources Committee will likely be scheduled in January. The package is here for viewing.

 

Oklahoma’s First Secretary of Energy and Environment Speaks at Central Oklahoma Chapter Meeting

Oklahoma’s first Secretary of Energy and Environment visited a Central Oklahoma Chapter meeting in October. The Chapter was recently honored to host Michael Teague, who was invited to speak by President Joe Sanders.

Teague’s presentation was a review of the Oklahoma First Energy Plan, created in 2011 under the leadership of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. Teague, being on the job for one year, has been tasked by the Governor to act upon the plan, which was completed prior to the creation of this position. 

Teague has since been educating and encouraging actions specific to the detailed objectives, strategies, and recommendations in the following energy sectors described in the plan: natural gas and oil; renewables; coal; power generation and transmission; residential, commercial, and state buildings; industrial; transportation, distribution, and infrastructure; education and workforce development; and environment.  

Teague presented an overview of these sectors and closed with an open discussion regarding the residential, commercial and state building codes with specific emphasis on the development of a state minimum building energy conservation code. The Chapter members offered their support to Teague in this area. As a result of the meeting, they are continuously communicating with his office to see how ASHRAE can support the advancement of minimum energy efficiency standards within the state of Oklahoma.

 

State Legislatures to Begin Sessions in January

With the new year just a few weeks away, state legislatures across the country will begin their sessions. Expect a flurry of activity as these sessions begin. 

 

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