Trump torpedoes one of Obama’s last climate orders

Source: Benjamin Hulac, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, May 21, 2018

With the stroke of a pen, President Trump rescinded a rule on environmental sustainability and climate change.

He replaced it with an order that prioritizes energy efficiency and waters down climate policies.

Trump issued an executive order instructing agencies to cut waste and costs to “enhance the resilience” of federal facilities and to lower the energy use of the buildings they oversee.

The document eliminates an executive order issued by former President Obama in 2015, called “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade.” It focused heavily on efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump’s order requires agencies to track their efforts in lowering energy use, but it does not require them to set goals to limit greenhouse gases, and the word “climate” does not appear in its text.

The elimination of the Obama-era provision was long anticipated by experts in federal contracting and energy efficiency circles.

The White House this spring proposed an increase of $500 million in funding for a unit of the Department of Energy that focuses on energy efficiency. “Agencies have identified energy efficiency projects which if implemented could save the Federal Government millions of dollars annually in energy and maintenance costs,” the White House said in its funding request.

Yesterday’s executive order had been expected for months, and a draft of it was circulating as early as October, according to a person familiar with the order.

Mike Catanzaro, a former energy adviser to Trump, supported energy efficiency projects across the federal government, according to people familiar with his work. Catanzaro left the White House last month.

Under the new order, federal agencies will no longer have to publish reports on their environmental sustainability — documents called “strategic sustainability performance plans.”

The administration had mostly ignored the Obama-era rule and failed to publish those reports, which were required to be shared with the public annually.

Only four of 30 federal departments contacted by E&E News recently had put their reports online. They include the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (Climatewire, April 23).

The Trump order also supports performance contracting, a technique to retrofit buildings using budget-neutral principles.

In a statement, Jennifer Schafer, executive director of the Federal Performance Contracting Coalition, called the order a “positive step forward by this administration.” She added that the group is glad Trump waited to revoke the previous order until he had a replacement ready.