White House Wants Greener Federal Operations

May 24, 2018


President Trump issued an executive order focused on streamlining previous requirements for making federal buildings more efficient and greener. 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 quoted Trump saying that running government smoothly and efficiently “is something that the taxpayers haven’t seen in a long-time”.

The order tasks certain agencies with leading the efforts to reduce energy consumption. It also contains fewer mentions of “sustainability” and “greenhouse gas emissions” than previous approaches. Instead, it 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 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 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.”

With 45 days, each agency will be required to appoint a chief sustainability officer, and each will track and report performance results to OMB for an annual scorecard.

Within 90 days, the secretaries of Agriculture and Energy and administrators of GSA and EPA are to review relevant government-wide guidance related to energy and environment performance issued by their respective agencies. Then they will work with the CEQ to develop a plan and timeline to “modify, replace, or rescind such guidance, as necessary, to facilitate implementation of the order.”

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

According to the Government Accountability Office, efforts by the government to achieve “greener buildings” have had some success. “GSA is well-positioned to support the administrations’ efforts to create efficiencies, cut waste, and lower costs to taxpayers by delivering value and savings across government,” a GSA spokesperson said.

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