White House Issues Its Vision for Greener Federal Operations

The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon, was renovated in 2013 using innovative technologies to reduce water and energy use. The Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Oregon, was renovated in 2013 using innovative technologies to reduce water and energy use. GSA photo

President Trump on Thursday issued an executive order aimed at streamlining Obama-era requirements for making federal buildings more energy efficient, though its differences with the approach of his predecessor appear modest.

The order “will drive continued action and focus on increasing efficiency of federal buildings and vehicles, improving environmental performance, and accomplishing these goals in a manner that reduces costs,” the White House said in a statement quoting Trump as saying that running government smoothly and efficiently “is something that the taxpayers haven’t seen in a long time.”

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Like Obama’s March 2015 executive order setting goals for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, Trump’s order tasks certain agencies with leading the efforts to reduce energy consumption. But the Trump approach contains fewer mentions of “sustainability” and “greenhouse gas emissions” and stresses the potential savings for taxpayers by better managing the government’s 350,000 buildings, 600,000 vehicles, solid waste disposal and use of water.

Trump directed the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget “to streamline the broad and intricate range of energy and environmental requirements, and the complex directives on how to achieve them,” the White House said. The order consolidates requirements relating to energy and water use, high-performance buildings and renewable energy consumption.

“It emphasizes meeting statutory requirements, and gives greater flexibility and discretion to agencies to decide how to best improve operations and meet goals,” the White House said. “It also encourages agencies, where appropriate, to use performance contracting to modernize buildings and achieve energy and water goals at no up-front cost to the government.”

Each agency within 45 days will be required to appoint a chief sustainability officer, and each will track and report performance results to OMB for an annual scorecard. The CEQ will launch a single website to display progress.

Under the order, the secretaries of Agriculture and Energy, along with the administrators of the General Services Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, within 90 days are to review relevant governmentwide guidance related to energy and environmental performance issued by their respective agencies. They will then work with the CEQ to develop a plan and timeline to “modify, replace, or rescind such guidance, as necessary, to facilitate implementation of this order.”

The GSA and the Defense secretary will perform a similar review of agency-owned vehicles. After 150 days, the CEQ and OMB are to issue new instructions for fleet management in compliance with the new order.

Efforts by the government—the nation’s largest energy consumer—to achieve “greener buildings” have had some success in recent years, according to the Government Accountability Office.

A GSA spokesperson said the agency welcomes the directive, noting, “GSA is well-positioned to support the administration’s effort to create efficiencies, cut waste and lower costs to taxpayers by delivering value and savings across government.”

This story was updated with a comment from GSA.

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