Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law: Industry Seeking to Block Implementation of Rule Making New Federal Buildings Fossil-Fuel Free by 2030

Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law


J. Cullen Howe   By J. Cullen Howe, Environmental Law Specialist, Arnold & Porter LLP

In 2007, President George Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act.  Included in the Act is Section 433, which requires that all new federal buildings (and major renovations of federal buildings costing at least $2.5 million) meet a fossil fuel-generated energy consumption reduction of 55% in 2010, 65% in 2015, 80% in 2020, 90% in 2025, and 100% in 2030.  In essence, the section requires that new federal buildings become fossil-fuel free by 2030 and was designed to be a national model for carbon-neutral construction.

The rule, which has yet to be finalized by the Department of Energy, is being opposed by several industry groups, including the American Gas Association and the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition.  According to an Issue Brief distributed by these groups, many federal agencies "do not have the ability to comply with the fossil fuel generated energy reduction mandate and therefore will not renovate," resulting in higher energy bills for the federal government and the American taxpayer.

Some groups, including the American Institute of Architects, are calling these claims misleading.  They state that over 95% of buildings owned by the federal government are three stories or less and can be easily renovated to meet Section 433.  They further state that there are numerous low-cost solutions for reducing energy consumption in single story and low-rise buildings, such as daylighting and ventilation strategies, natural heating and cooling systems, and high-performance products and fixtures.  In addition, the federal government can purchase renewable energy to meet part of its mandated fossil fuel reduction target directly from electricity suppliers.

Currently, the House of Representatives is considering halting the implementation of Section 433 by not appropriating federal money needed to complete the rulemaking.  The move would need Senate approval.

Energy Efficient Green Building

Reprinted with permission from Green Building Law Update Service.

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J. Cullen Howe is an environmental law specialist at Arnold & Porter LLP. Much of Cullen's work focuses on climate change, where he attempts to educate lawyers and the public at large on the enormous cooperation necessary to adequately address this problem. In addition to his work on climate change, Cullen is the managing editor of Environmental Law in New York, edits the Environmental Law Practice Guide, Brownfields Law and Practice, the Environmental Impact Review in New York, and has drafted chapters in the Environmental Law Practice Guide on climate change and green building. Mr. Howe is a graduate of Vermont Law School, where he was the managing editor of the Vermont Law Review, and a graduate of DePauw University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

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