Greening the U.S. Federal Government – Executive Order 13514

Starting with George Washington, U.S. Presidents have issued over 15,000 executive orders to date. Do U.S. federal agencies actually fulfill these directives?

I pondered this question while writing the previous post, Green Legislation – Obama Administration, which included a summary of Executive Order 13514 – Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.

President Obama Participating in Signing Executive Order 13514 on October 5, 2009 - Photo: Peta Souza, White House
President Obama Participating in Signing Executive Order 13514 on October 5, 2009 – Photo: Peta Souza, White House

Some readers may be able to relate to CEOs, executives, and managers handing down the private sector version of executive orders in the form of company-wide or department-wide edicts, directives, or mandates. In my experience, sometimes we followed directives to the letter, other times half-heartedly, and sometimes not at all.

Does the President garner more cooperation than a corporate CEO does? The answer is probably “It depends,” but the President as the Chief Executive of the United States does have the backing of the U.S. Constitution.

I thought it would be fun and informative to find out what actions federal agencies have taken to comply with the directives of EO 13514. Below is a summary of what I learned during a brief investigation.

Executive Order 13514 – Overview

The U.S. federal government occupies over half a million buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, and purchases over $500 billion in goods and services each year 1, which enables federal agencies to make enormous reductions in carbon emissions, water use, and fossil fuel consumption, while using their considerable buying power to influence greening the government supply chain.

President Obama issued Executive Order 13514 – Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance on October 5, 2009, directing federal agencies to lead the country towards a clean energy economy and reduce greenhouse gases by greening their own operations.

The actions and targets outlined in EO 13514 cover a wide range of measures including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing energy efficiency, using renewable energy, conserving water, diverting waste from landfills, improving building performance, and buying environmentally preferable goods and services.

Graywater System at U.S. Airforce Hurlburt Field, FL - Photo: U.S. Air Force
Graywater System at U.S. Airforce Hurlburt Field, FL – Photo: U.S. Air Force

Federal departments and agencies affected by EO 13514 include the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the Social Security Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others.

Note: EO 13514 uses the federal government’s fiscal year (FY) calendar, which begins on October 1 of one year and ends on September 30 of the next.

Executive Order 13514 – Oversight and Information

The Council on Environmental Quality and Office of Management and Budget jointly oversee EO 13514 implementation and compliance.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security January 2014 Sustainability / Energy ScorecardThe Federal Facilities Environmental Stewardship and Compliance Assistance Center is a one-stop-shopping website providing information, tools, data, status reports, and guidance to assist federal agencies in addressing and fulfilling EO 13514 requirements.

Individual agency scorecards and strategic sustainability performance plans were relatively easy to locate, but I could not find a dashboard or report summarizing progress made to date on a federal government-wide basis, except for energy-related goals.

Executive Order 13514 – Interagency Collaboration

EO 13514 designated various agencies to work together to develop tools and guidelines to assist all agencies. A few examples are below.

  • The DOE led the development of a GHG emission accounting tool and procedure for measuring and reporting progress.
  • The GSA and DOE prepared guidelines to aid agencies in improving fleet energy performance.
  • The EPA led the effort to create guidelines for working with vendors on greening the supply chain.

Executive Order 13514 – Strategic Sustainability Performance Plans

Each agency created a sustainability plan outlining the actions it is taking and intends to take to achieve its goals and comply with EO 13514. Agencies publish scorecards and updated sustainability plans annually.

Progress on Energy Goals

The federal government is the largest energy consumer in the U.S, therefore, reducing fossil fuel use, increasing energy efficiency, and increasing renewable energy use will not only reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions it will save taxpayers billions of dollars.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Goals

EO 13514 requires each federal agency to establish a GHG emission reduction goal based on 2008 estimated emissions and achieve the goal by 2020.

The GHG emissions reduction goal consists of three categories:

  • Scope 1 – direct GHG emissions from federally owned or controlled sources, including fuels, burned on site and vehicle emissions.
  • Scope 2 – indirect GHG emissions from the offsite generation of electricity, heat, or steam purchased by federal agencies.
  • Scope 3 – indirect GHG emissions related to agency activities including vendor supply chains, delivery services, and employee travel.

Federal agencies established their 2020 targets in early January 2010.

On January 29, 2010, President Obama announced the aggregated federal agency goals are to reduce direct GHG emissions by 28% and indirect GHG emissions by 13% by 2020.

As of September 30, 2013, the federal government had reduced direct GHG emissions by 17.2% seemingly on track to meet the 28% goal by 2020 and had exceeded the 13% goal for indirect GHG emissions with a 19.8% reduction.

U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory South Table Mountain Campus, Golden, CO - Photo: Dennis Schroeder / NREL
U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory South Table Mountain Campus, Golden, CO – Photo: Dennis Schroeder / NREL
Petroleum Product Use Reduction Goal

Agencies operating a fleet of least 20 motor vehicles are required to reduce consumption of petroleum products by 2% annually through 2020. I could not locate a government-wide progress report on petroleum use.

Renewable Energy Goal

President Obama raised the bar on renewable energy on December 5, 2013, by issuing his Memorandum on Federal Leadership on Energy Management, which requires each agency to obtain 20% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020, beginning with 10% in 2015.

Federal agency renewal energy use was at 9.2% of total energy use in September 2013.

My research indicates that at least in the case of EO 13514 federal agencies do take presidential executive orders seriously.

Greening the U.S. federal government is good for the planet, people, and taxpayer wallets.

Related Posts

References

  1. Congressional Research Service – Executive Order 13514: Sustainability and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction, by Richard J. Campbell and Anthony Andrews, December 3, 2009

Resources

This Changes Everything – Book Review

This Changes Everything Book CoverThis Changes Everything: Capitalism vs.The Climate by Naomi Klein reveals some intriguing connections between the global economy and climate change.

For instance, international trade agreements can stymie attempts to enact climate change policies and create local jobs in ways that might surprise you.

I heard about This Changes Everything through publicity surrounding The People’s Climate March held in New York City on September 21, 2014. After scanning the table of contents, I knew I wanted to read the book and bought a copy a few weeks later.

“In pragmatic terms, our challenge is less to save earth from ourselves and more to save ourselves from an earth that, if pushed too far, has ample power to rock, burn, and shake us off completely.”

Book Review

Who could resist a book with chapter titles like, “The Right is Right,” “Public and Paid For,” and “You and What Army?” Readers, it is best to approach reading This Changes Everything with an inquisitive mindset and expecting to have at least some of your viewpoints challenged.

The Market

Explore evidence showing how the capitalist free market system is resulting in unstable financial markets, a widening income gap between the ultra-wealthy and everyone else, and a growing disregard for people and the planet. The market has failed to address climate change effectively or to deliver on its promise to trickle down money to poor and middle-class families.

Big Green

Discover the interesting, and yes, disturbing relationships between some of the most well-known environmental organizations in the world and the giant multi-national corporations who are extracting massive amounts of resources and polluting our water, air, and land.

Blockadia

Read stories from across the globe about what people are doing to protect their communities and how they are fighting enormous and seemingly unstoppable corporations and winning.

The Bottom Line

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and author of international bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. She is a syndicated columnist for The Nation and a board member of 350.org.

Klein’s style of writing is informative, descriptive, and sometimes seemingly purposefully “in your face” (I liked that).

Numerous times while reading the book, I found myself thinking, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of it that way.” or “I didn’t know that.” I have read many books about climate change so this was surprising and refreshing.

This Changes Everything is a worthwhile read, sure to generate a conversation or two, perhaps spark a debate (hopefully friendly), or maybe encourage someone sitting on the sidelines to stand up and take action. It should be required reading for all government officials, corporate CEOs, lobbyists, NGO executive directors, and MBA candidates. I hope Klein sent a signed copy to President Obama.

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