Bipartisan bill would keep fossil fuels in fed buildings

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, July 30, 2018

Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reintroduced legislation last week that would repeal a contentious plan to zero out fossil fuel use in federal buildings.

The “All-of-the-Above Federal Building Energy Conservation Act” simultaneously directs building managers to implement energy-cutting strategies identified in congressional audits. It also requires that major renovations bring existing buildings up to new federal standards requiring less energy use.

In a statement, Hoeven said energy efficiency goals can be achieved “in a cost effective way, but not with one-size-fits-all mandates.”

The idea of repealing the fossil fuel ban on federal buildings, known as Section 433, has prompted heavy lobbying on both sides in the past. The ban was imposed by the 2007 energy bill and would phase out fossil power in new and renovated buildings incrementally, with a 100 percent reduction by 2030.

In 2016, when similar repeal language was under consideration in Congress, interest groups circulated dueling letters about the impact of killing Section 433.

Some environmentalists said lifting the ban would be detrimental to fighting climate change, while others argued that fossil fuel reduction could be achieved through other means (Greenwire, Jan. 29, 2016).

The Hoeven and Manchin language won support from utility groups, natural gas organizations and some efficiency advocates when the senators introduced a similar proposal in 2013 and 2015.

“We support this bill because it ensures that federal agencies will make cost-effective efficiency improvements in buildings across the government. The federal government is the largest energy user in the nation,” the Alliance to Save Energy said today.

The legislation also calls for greater use of energy management systems to improve efficiency. Unlike previous iterations of the bill, it does not set energy performance targets for federal buildings that would cut energy use by set percentages yearly.