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Canceling the "Ban" on Fossil Fuels? Bill to Clarify 2030 Targets

Efficiency advocates have taken opposite sides on the Shaheen-Portman energy bill. Will a new compromise bring them back together?

By Paula Melton

This story originally appeared on BuildingGreen.com.

August 13, 2013

Net-zero energy use in all federal buildings may sound like a distant dream—but in fact, it’s the law. Starting in 2030, all new federal buildings and major renovation projects must be designed to consume no fossil fuels; gradual phase-in was set to begin in 2010.

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But some efficiency advocates have teamed up with the natural gas industry to jettison these aggressive energy mandates for federal buildings, and this battle is threatening to sink Shaheen-Portman, the popular energy bill that would boost energy codes, finance retrofits, and support training programs for building tradespeople and professionals (for a full analysis, see Environmentalists Split Over Popular Energy Bill).

Now Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D–Rhode Island) is proposing a compromise.

The American Gas Association (AGA) has been the primary advocate for the repeal of Section 433, the provision in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) that prescribes the 2030 energy targets. AGA has also attracted the support of the Alliance to Save Energy and other efficiency-focused groups. Proponents of Section 433 repeal argue that the 2030 targets are not feasible because they amount to a “ban” on fossil fuels. A bill introduced by Senator John Hoeven (R–North Dakota) and Senator Joe Manchin (D–West Virginia) attempts to address their concerns by replacing the 2030 fuel targets with energy-efficiency mandates.

”Senator Whitehouse is seeking a middle ground that will achieve the same goals as the Hoeven-Manchin amendment while also preserving the spirit of the 2007 law,” says Whitehouse press secretary Seth Larson. The proposed amendment will reportedly clarify that net-zero carbon is the goal and that onsite and off-site renewable-energy offsets are an acceptable way of meeting that goal.

“We think it addresses not only their concerns but also everybody’s concerns,” says Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA. Goldberg is managing director of government relations and outreach at the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which has been a vocal advocate for preserving Section 433.

The American Gas Association (AGA) has countered that Hoeven-Manchin “is the compromise solution to Section 433.”

Shaheen-Portman has been placed on the legislative calendar and will likely be taken up soon after Senators return from their summer recess.

Copyright 2013 by BuildingGreen Inc.

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