Senators Still Hopeful for Year-End Energy Bill Passage
There are only a handful of days left in 2013 before Congress adjourns, yet key Senators remain cautiously optimistic that a deal could be reached that would result in the passage of Shaheen-Portman, which many consider to be the primary legislative vehicle for energy efficiency improvements.
Throughout 2013, extensive debate on this bill has been taking place both on and off the Senate floor, the result of which is that many Senators have already indicated their positions on Shaheen-Portman, and what kinds, if any, amendments they might like to offer. Thus, in theory it is possible to achieve swift passage for this bill in the Senate – and passage is considered likely at this point under certain circumstances. The trick is for Senate leaders to reach an agreement with their colleagues to not offer unrelated amendments to the bill whose primary purpose would be to highlight or force action on another issue, such as healthcare reform. Proposed amendments on health care derailed debate on this bill earlier this year. Senate leaders would also need to find time for at least a brief amount of debate to occur, amendments to be offered, and then hold a vote.
With time already in short supply, and other pressing issues topping the congressional agenda (specifically the need to pass a new Farm Bill, budget negotiations, and the National Defense Authorization Act), it definitely looks like a long shot for Shaheen-Portman, yet stranger things have happened in Congress.
Passage of Shaheen-Portman in the Senate this year would help create momentum for action in the House, where its House counterpart, known as McKinley-Welch, would likely work through the regular process of committee hearings, markup, and floor debate before being combined into a final bill.
For additional information, please contact Mark Ames, ASHRAE's Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Debate Stalls on National Defense Bill
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a contentious bill that paves the way for funding the nation’s security programs (including the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of military facilities), yet Members of Congress have demonstrated an extraordinary ability to work through their differences and enact this bill into law – every year – for 51 straight years. However this streak may be at its end.
In an act of rebellion against their Democratic colleagues, prior to Congress’ Thanksgiving break, Republicans refused to end floor debate on the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2014 (S.1197), arguing that Democrats were unfairly trying to limit the number of amendments to the bill (over 500 amendments have already been introduced). Negotiations are ongoing to determine the number of additional amendments that would be offered, but it is likely that at least 50 more will be put forward.
ASHRAE is working with stakeholder organizations, closely monitoring the amendments and progress of the NDAA. We expect that at an amendment may at some point be offered that could prohibit the Department of Defense from using funds to obtain LEED Gold or Platinum Certifications.
For additional information, please contact Mark Ames, ASHRAE’s Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs at email@example.com.
Building Energy Code Stakeholders Gather in Washington, DC for Annual Meeting
The Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) held its annual meeting in Washington, DC this week to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the building community as it seeks to promote the adoption and compliance with newer editions of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1 – Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings, and the International Energy Conservation Code, while responding to state and local attempts to rollback or delay the use of energy codes.
BCAP is supported by the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), a nonprofit organization of over 150 companies and organizations, whose mission is to create an energy efficient world. ASHRAE is an Associate Member of ASE.
For additional information, please contact Doug Read, ASHRAE's Director of Government Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Report Released on Including Building Codes in the National Flood Insurance Program
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) publicly released a report this week entitled “Including Building Codes in the National Flood Insurance Program”. As its name implies, the report describes how building codes, including the International Green Construction Code, and others in the International Code Series (I-Codes) can be used to reduce future flood damage. The report was prepared in response to the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-123).
Below is the summary of the report’s findings:
- The overall impacts of including building code as part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) would be positive in helping to reduce physical flood losses and other hazard losses, which would in turn positively affect the land use planning and regulatory climate. Current model building codes, such as the I-codes, have flood provisions that are consistent with NFIP requirements for buildings and structures, and are effective in reducing flood-related damage because of the specific mitigation provisions required for compliance.
- Most NFIP communities already administer building codes based on the I-codes. For communities that have already adopted building codes, the impact of including codes into the NFIP would be negligible. Twenty-two states mandate local enforcement of statewide codes and 28 states have partial or complete code adoption and enforcement between the state and local levels.
- NFIP communities that currently do not have building codes would be more affected by inclusion of codes into the NFIP. These communities may incur minor increased initial costs as property owners invest in building code-compliant structures, and as communities establish building departments to perform permitting and inspection. Benefits of these actions and investments are abundant, and include: generally increased property values, reduced losses during flood and other hazard events which reduce insurance rates over a 5- to 10-year period, and a more actuarially sound NFIP and insurance industry.
- The most significant benefits would likely arise from the required added elevation above flood levels (freeboard) for dwellings in certain locations (such as Coastal A Zones). Enhanced code compliance by builders, and improved enforcement of NFIP flood provisions would occur because of the statutory enforcement authority of building officials.
- Insurance losses would be reduced for the properties required to comply with building codes because those properties would sustain less damage. The reduction of losses would lower actuarially rated insurance premiums for those structures, which in turn would make insurance more affordable and attract a broader participant pool, further enhancing soundness and reducing subsidy needs of the NFIP.
- Enforcing building codes as part of the NFIP would only affect new structures and substantially damaged or substantially improved structures required to be brought into compliance with the requirements for new structures.
- The financial and regulatory impacts on rural communities and Indian reservations that do not already enforce building codes or have adopted codes that are substantially out of date may require additional resources for enforcement, such as communities where significant growth occurs. As with large communities, the impact on rural communities and the Indian reservations that already administer current building codes would be negligible.
The full report can be found at http://ow.ly/rstgB.