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Government Affairs

Government Affairs Update, 09-13-2013


Landmark Energy Efficiency Bill Debated on Senate Floor

After repeated delays, this week the U.S. Senate began debating the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (S.1392), also known as Shaheen-Portman. This bill would encourage greater energy efficiency in commercial, residential, federal buildings, and the industrial sector through support for building energy codes and standards, workforce training, capacity building, and related activities. ASHRAE supports this bill, and has been collaborating with a wide variety of stakeholder organizations and Congressional offices for over three years on this legislation, using the Society's technical expertise to better inform policymakers.

As of this writing, no votes are expected to happen this week on Shaheen-Portman, due to requests from Senators for a vote on health care issues. While a resolution to this temporary impasse is being sought, negotiations on proposed amendments are continuing to occur. Among those amendments being discussed are:

  • Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act (S.717) – Would establish a pilot program to award grants to nonprofit organizations for energy efficiency retrofits.
  • Streamlining Energy Efficiency for Schools Act (S.1084) – Would establish the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating federal, state, and local assistance provided to promote the energy retrofitting of schools.
  • Better Buildings Act (S.1191) (also known as Tenant Star) – Would build on the success of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR for Buildings program and establish a voluntary new “Tenant Star” program to certify leased spaces in buildings as energy efficient.
  • Building energy benchmarking & disclosure (S. 1206) - Would encourage benchmarking and disclosure of energy information for commercial buildings.
  • WAP/SEP Reauthorization (S. 1213) – Would reauthorize the weatherization and state energy programs.
  • Energy Efficient Government Technology Act (S. 1261) – Would promote energy efficiency via information and computing technologies, including energy efficient data centers.
  • Quadrennial Energy Review Act (S. 552) – Would amend the Department of Energy Organization Act to replace the current requirement for a biennial energy policy plan with a Quadrennial Energy Review.

Formal debate is expected to resume on Shaheen-Portman next week. Should the Senate pass this bill, the House will expedite work on its version of Shaheen-Portman, known in the House as McKinley-Welch (H.R.1616), for it's authors - Representatives David McKinley (R-WV) and Peter Welch (D-VT), who serve as the Co-Chairs of the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus. ASHRAE helped found and currently chairs the private-sector coalition of over 200 building community stakeholder organizations and businesses that supports the Caucus.

For additional information, please contact Doug Read, ASHRAE's Director of Government Affairs, and Mark Ames, ASHRAE’s Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs, at washdc@ashrae.org.


Code Concerns Continue Across U.S.

As has been reported in several previous issues of Government Affairs Update, a handful of states in the U.S. have considered, or are considering, delaying updates to building energy codes (i.e., in most cases, from every three years to every six years) and, at worst, rolling back codes to earlier, less energy-efficient versions of the codes. These troubling developments persist, but offer unique opportunities for ASHRAE chapters and members to engage with policymakers in their states and communities.
In several states, lawmakers are examining such proposals on the grounds that code and standard updates are considered too costly to implement or update on so “frequent” a basis.
These proposals are problematic for ASHRAE for several reasons:

  • Codes and standards developed and revised on a regular three-year basis ensure that the latest advances in efficiency- and safety-related technologies and techniques (which are moving forward at a faster rate than ever) are codified, made available to technical professionals and code officials in a way to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the general public.
  • As noted above, the public benefits from up-to-date codes and standards: families and building owners want safe and efficient homes and buildings; owners and tenants want to ensure customer and employee safety and keep their overheads low; and taxpayers bear the costs of legal actions and high building operations and maintenance costs when codes and standards are not updated regularly.
  • Delaying code and standard update cycles puts a state far behind others. For example, if a state enacts a delay law this year, the 2012 standards and codes wouldn’t be implemented until 2015, while other states would, presumably, have adopted 2012 and 2015 editions. This means that the construction industry and code inspectors would need to absorb six years of new information at one time. Also, consumers would have less access to technologies developed since the last update because the design community and code officials would have inadequate safety installation information.

And, as noted above, for many ASHRAE members these measures are injurious to their bottom lines as business people.

Recently, ASHRAE entered into a partnership with several other organizations who are similarly worried about these developments. As suggested by its name, the Coalition for Current Safety Codes Advisory Committee is not focused on the energy efficiency standards and codes about which ASHRAE chapters and members are experts, but the trend toward code rollbacks and delays in code updates that have the potential to impact any and all model codes and standards, including energy efficiency-related measures developed and maintained by ASHRAE.

The Coalition has identified the following states as being moderately to seriously vulnerable, as far as the extant code processes are concerned:

  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah, and
  • Washington.

Though, in most of these state, energy efficiency is not an explicit target of the pro-delay camp, ASHRAE members and chapters in these states should be on the lookout for such legislative proposals and send information to their chapter Grassroots Government Activities Committee (GGAC) chair, who should then report that to their Regional Vice Chair for GGAC to ensure the sharing of best practices, resources, etc., across their region’s chapters and across ASHRAE through the GGAC infrastructure.
For more information, please contact Mark Wills, ASHRAE’s Manager of State and Local Government Affairs at mwills@ashrae.org