Congressional Elections Result in Several Significant Changes
Although the President will remain the same, the November elections touched off a wave of change in Congress, as several key Members lost their reelection bids or retired. Notably, new champions for the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) will need to be identified in the U.S. House of Representatives, as the previous leaders – Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Russ Carnahan (D-MN) lost their general and primary elections, respectively. Representatives Biggert and Carnahan were also the co-chairs of the High-Performance Buildings Congressional Caucus, and thus new co-chairs will need to be selected. ASHRAE, who chairs the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition (HPBCCC) that supports the Caucus, is actively working with Reps. Biggert and Carnahan and HPBCCC members to recruit new co-chairs.
Representative Charles Bass (R-NH) also lost his election. Representative Bass is a co-author (along with Rep. Jim Matheson [D-UT)]) of the Smart Energy Act (H.R.4017), which is considered one of the major bipartisan building energy efficiency bills in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Additionally, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), a long-time leader in efforts to reduce pollution and improve energy use, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is retiring at the end of this year. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) will take over as chair of this committee next year.
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), who introduced legislation supporting improved building energy efficiency, will also not return to Congress next year, as he lost his primary to tea party challenger Richard Mourdock, who ultimately lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly in the general election.
With a few races yet to be settled, Democrats will retain the majority in the Senate by a margin of 55 to 45, while in the House, Republicans will hold the majority, likely by a margin of 234 to 201. Between the House and Senate, about 40 new Members of Congress will come to Washington, resulting in shifts in committee membership that will likely have lasting policy impacts, and may ultimately affect future reelection prospects. Committee berths will be decided in the coming weeks and months.
While Congress concludes work for the year, and new Members become acquainted with life in Washington, DC, in President Obama’s administration rumors are swirling that U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, is leaving the Department, and may be replaced by Cathy Zoi (a former Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy), Dan Reicher (also a former Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy), or others.
Net-Zero Energy Schools Spotlighted in Congressional Briefing
Earlier this week, the High-Performance Building Congressional Caucus Coalition (HPBCCC) held a Congressional briefing on net-zero energy schools. The briefing was sponsored by ASHRAE and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), and cosponsored by eight other technical societies and stakeholder organizations.
This briefing spotlighted ASHRAE’s Advanced Energy Design Guides (AEDGs) for K-12 School Buildings, and provided several examples of net-zero energy and net-zero-energy-capable schools in Kentucky – several of which were designed by ASHRAE member Ken Seibert’s firm, CMTA Consulting Engineers. Greg Guess, Kentucky’s director of Energy and Conservation for Kentucky’s Department of Energy Development and Independence, echoed Seibert’s comments regarding the value of energy efficient schools within the Commonwealth and emphasized how these schools benefit students, teachers, and administrators alike.
David Terry, NASEO’s executive director, highlighted the impact and importance of net-zero and near-zero energy schools on a national scale and how they fit into a wider low-energy-use strategy across the United States.
“State Energy Offices will continue to play a key leadership role in facilitating high-performance and zero-net energy capable buildings projects across the country to reduce and stabilize energy and facility operating costs, improve stewardship of public resources, and enhance facility resiliency,” said David Terry.
The briefing also represented the last event at which Representatives Russ Carnahan (D-MO) and Judy Biggert (R-IL) served as Co-Chairs of the High-Performance Buildings Caucus of the U.S. Congress, as both Members of Congress lost their reelection bids.
“The HPBCCC would like to thank Congresswoman Judy Biggert and Congressman Russ Carnahan for their years of service, leadership, and tireless dedication to the Caucus and building community,” said Doug Read, ASHRAE’s Director of Government Affairs and Chairman of the HPBCCC. “By helping to educate their colleagues on the importance of all aspects of high-performance buildings, and introducing and supporting legislation on these issues, Congresswoman Biggert and Congressman Carnahan have truly made a significant, positive impact on the built environment.”
For additional information on the HPBCCC, click here.
ASHRAE Engagement with NASEO Key to Grassroots Influence, Success
NASEO’s involvement in HPBCCC briefings is the first step in ASHRAE’s enhanced relationship with NASEO. On December 4, ASHRAE Treasurer Tom Phoenix will participate in a meeting of NASEO’s Board of Directors, and provide some insights into the Society’s programs, policies, and publications, including its internationally recognized and used standards – notably, Standards 90.1 and 189.1; certification (e.g., Building Energy Modeling Professional, Building Energy Assessment Professional) and energy ratings (i.e., Building Energy Quotient) programs; publications (e.g., the AEDGs); and the Government Affairs Office’s activities – both at the U.S. federal and grassroots levels.
The U.S. state and local government activities arena are the venues through which ASHRAE members are best positioned to interact with NASEO’s membership, which is comprised of the leaders of the state and territorial energy offices. Many of NASEO’s members have a direct organizational line to their respective governors, which means their input on energy policy matters – including building energy standards and codes and energy efficiency in the built environment from a broader perspective – often goes straight to the top of state government. Consequently, ASHRAE’s new Grassroots Government Activities Committee (GGAC) and its staff liaisons will be working hard to connect the Society’s regional and chapter leaders with NASEO members as to provide them (i.e., state energy officials) with the technical and policy resources they need to make sound energy policy decisions. To that end, a NASEO Board member will be participating in the initial GGAC training session at the Dallas Winter Meeting this coming January.
Furthermore, ASHRAE and NASEO are hammering out the final details of a Memorandum of Understanding between our two organizations, which will formalize the importance of working together moving forward.
To sign up for the ASHRAE Government Affairs Update or to see archives, click here.