Earth Day 2017 – Mr. President, Go Green

Veteran Co-Owned Solar Company Based in San Diego, CA - Photo Semper Solaris
Veteran Co-Owned Solar Company Based in San Diego, CA – Photo Semper Solaris

For Earth Day this year, coming up on April 22, 2017, write a letter to President Trump letting him know a concern of yours, environmental or otherwise.

Prior to the first Earth Day in 1970, smog was so thick in some cities you could not see across the street, water pollution was so bad that rivers caught on fire, and pesticides were poisoning not only pests but people and wildlife, too. Richard Nixon was the President of the United States.

On April 22, 1970, millions of Americans took to the streets demanding that the Federal Government take action to protect the environment and public health. The modern environmental movement gained traction and people from all walks of life supported environmental legislation. During the 1970’s, the Environmental Protection Agency was founded and Congress passed important environmental laws including the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Since 1970, Earth Day as spread around the world encouraging people everywhere to take action to protect Mother Earth, the place we all call home.

A few years ago, I began a tradition of writing to the President of the United States for Earth Day (I write on other days, too). This year, I wrote the letter below to President Trump about renewable energy.

April 17, 2017

President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Re: National Security and Renewable Energy

Dear President Trump,

While reading your 2018 budget proposal America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, a sentence in your message to Congress on page 7 resonated with me.

“A budget that puts America first must make the safety of our people its number one priority—because without safety, there can be no prosperity.”

Safety from terrorist attacks is just one way to help Americans feel safe. We also need clean air to breathe, safe water drink, healthy food to eat, a roof over our heads, and a habitable planet to live on.

As an American citizen, I respectfully urge you to support ramping up renewable energy to promote safety and prosperity for all Americans.

The Pentagon has stated that climate change is a major threat to national security and the DOD has embraced renewable energy to improve systems efficiency, troop safety, and mission effectiveness.

Expanding renewable energy to power American homes, businesses and transportation would enhance our national security and provide jobs. The U.S. Energy and Employment Report and the Annual Energy Outlook 2017 with projections to 2050 provide compelling information about how renewable energy and energy efficiency is already contributing to your make America great again strategy.

Solar – 374,000 Americans are working full or part time in the solar industry, a workforce increase of 25% in 2016. American veterans hold 9% of the 260,077 full-time solar jobs.

Wind – 102,000 Americans are working in the wind industry, a workforce increase of 32% in 2016.

Energy Efficiency – 2.2 million Americans are working on energy efficient products and services related to the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program (which you propose eliminating). Of those jobs, 290,000 are manufacturing jobs.

Mr. President, you have considerable business experience and acumen, which is why many Americans voted for you, so I urge you to put that knowledge to work in supporting renewable energy.

My spouse and I are trying to do our part. When we installed solar panels on our roof, we specifically chose a manufacturer producing panels in the U.S. and paid 9% extra to support American workers.

Let us work together to keep Earth habitable for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.

Sincerely,

Linda Poppenheimer

The Unlikely Environmentalist at greengroundswell.com

For Earth Day 2017, please write a letter to President Trump and join millions of Americans and me for the March for Science on April 22. If you can’t make it on the 22nd, then consider participating in the People’s Climate Movement March on April 29.

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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.

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References

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

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