GGAC Regional and Chapter Activities
- North Carolina
For additional information on federal issues, please contact Mark Ames, ASHRAE’s Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
House Subcommittee Approves STEM Education Reform Bill
Last week a House subcommittee approved a bill that seeks to lead improvements in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, while also focusing federal investments in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Science Foundation (NSF).
The Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act (H.R.4186) takes steps towards consolidating federal STEM education programs by creating a new STEM Education Advisory Panel that would be made up of key stakeholders from the education and private sector/industrial communities. The Panel would be charged with providing recommendations to the President and federal agencies on a number of areas, including how federal STEM education programs should be evaluated and how public-private partnerships can be used to improve these programs. The bill would also require NSF to review STEM education programs throughout the federal government to improve coordination and reduce duplication.
Although the STEM provisions in the FIRST Act have received bipartisan praise, the bill as a whole has drawn sharp criticism from Democrats and a number of scientific and educational organizations who argue that the FIRST Act does not pave the way for sufficient funding of NIST and NSF or create a roap map for reinvigorating American research and innovation.
The bill now awaits further action from the full House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Significant additional action is not expected in the near term largely due to ideological disagreements between the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate.
Prospects Dim for Congressional Action on Energy Efficiency
The reintroduction of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (also known as “Shaheen-Portman”) (S.2074) came about with a large amount of fanfare – ten bipartisan amendments were added to the bill, along with seven Republicans and six Democrats – including top leadership of the powerful Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. On top of this, the House recently passed the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act (H.R.2126), which was approved by a vote of 375 to 36, with about equal numbers of support from Democrats and Republicans.
With all of this bipartisan momentum it seemed likely that some form of energy efficiency legislation would be enacted by Congress in the near term. However after several meetings with Republican and Democratic office staffers, it is clear that the prospects of enactment are still far away. The reasons for this are fairly simple, and perhaps understandable: This is an election year, and Republicans and Democrats alike wish to hold votes on issues that would increase their popularity with their constituents, and avoid votes that would decrease their support. Thus, unless an agreement to limit amendments on Shaheen-Portman or the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act can be reached (a very unlikely scenario at this stage), energy efficiency – and many other issues – are effectively put on hold until after November.
That said, an energy efficiency bill hasn’t been enacted for seven years, and pressure continues to build in Congress for action. Thus, with steady, strong bipartisan support for efficiency, Congressional Leadership could decide to take up this issue at almost any time. As a result, the building community finds itself asking not “if” energy efficiency legislation will be enacted, but “when”.
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@example.com.
ASHRAE’s Grassroots Government Activities Committee (GGAC) is completing its work on various training modules that can be used with CRCs, government officials and for presentations to various professional organizations. If you have ideas or need particular types of information for presentations, please share those ideas with the GGAC by sending your requests or suggestions to Jim Scarborough.
Bill Harrison, GGAC Chair of the Arkansas Chapter of ASHRAE, reports that he is in the process of meeting with various policymakers in the state to discuss how ASHRAE could work during the legislative session to promote acts that were aimed at energy efficiency. Additionally, information is being provided on how energy efficiency efforts can be financed in the private sector.
Arizona Senate Bill 1227, which would prohibit all cities and counties in the state from adopting any energy codes, has stalled. This legislation, which had appeared headed toward ratification, is opposed by the Arizona League of Cities and Towns. ASHRAE’s two chapters, along with chapters and representatives of other industry organizations in Arizona, have been vocal in voicing their opposition to the bill. The stakeholders have been diligent in contacting legislators to voice their opposition. To view the legislation, go to http://www.azleg.gov/DocumentsForBill.asp?Bill_Number=SB1227&Session_ID=112.
The City of Chicago has informed ASHRAE that it will recognize the Building Energy Assessment Professional (BEAP) certification as a data verifier credential to provide services in the city’s new Benchmarking Ordinance. As a result, BEAP credential holders will be eligible to conduct data verification for buildings covered by the ordinance. Many thanks to the Illinois Chapter and its GGAC Committee for their efforts with city officials in getting this certification recognized. ASHRAE is very happy that the BEAP is one of the initial credentials to be recognized in this first round of approvals and notifications.
In September of 2013, Chicago became the ninth city in the United States to require that buildings benchmark energy performance and publicly disclose data. Chicago is the only city that requires data to be verified by a Licensed Professional. Covered buildings are required to have data verified by professionals on the first and every third year after.
All buildings, except industrial, over 50,000 square feet, are required to comply with the ordinance. At present, 3,500 buildings are covered, including multi-family residential. While this is less than 1% of all buildings in Chicago, it represents 20% of the energy consumed annually by buildings. The City of Chicago has no other mandates associated with the ordinance other than submitting data annually and verifying as noted. The City hopes to accomplish market-driven energy reduction from buildings through data transparency.
For more information on the ordinance, visit www.chicagoenergybenchmarking.org
The ASHRAE Illinois Chapter’s GGAC, chaired by Saagar Patel, has been working closely with the City of Chicago, and other professional other organizations to support the roll-out of the benchmarking ordinance. Chicago's ordinance requires that data be professionally verified.
Recognizing that some buildings covered by the ordinance may not have the financial resources to seek professional support, the Illinois Chapter of ASHRAE led an effort to create a first of its kind pro-bono program to match volunteer professionals with in-need buildings. Buildings expected to apply for support include schools, churches and community centers.
The pro-bono support program matches junior professionals that do not hold the professional qualifications or experience to verify building data with experienced professionals that can mentor and provide support to the junior volunteers and covered buildings. The program will provide opportunity for young professionals to learn about building systems, operations and energy performance, while helping those in need.
“The pro-bono support program is an extraordinary effort that will not only provide valuable experience to our young professionals, but will show the community at large what lies at the heart of ASHRAE” said Benjamin Skelton, P.E., member of the Illinois Chapter GGAC.
Legislation passed recently by the Indiana legislature and sent to Governor Mike Pence for his signature would eliminate a requirement for Indiana investor-owned utilities to reduce retail electricity sales by 2% by 2019. At this point, the Governor has not signed the bill and can allow it to go into effect without his signature. Energy and environmental groups have been urging him to veto this legislation. For more information on this bill, go to http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2014/bills/senate/340/.
The North Carolina Building Code Council (NCBCC) voted last week to change the code update cycle from 3 years to 6 years. Though the change was strongly opposed by a number of groups, and notably, ASHRAE President-Elect Tom Phoenix spoke in opposition, the NCBCC voted 9-6 to institute a 6 year code adoption cycle for commercial construction excluding the Electrical Code which will be kept on the three year cycle.