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Greening the Federal Government

Working to Make Our Government Green

The Opportunity

“We are looking to the Department of Energy to exercise important leadership by initiating the full energy efficiency overhaul that our buildings and communities need urgently. Environmentally sound upgrades for buildings should go hand in hand with energy efficiency improvements, so it is time for the Energy Department and all other Federal agencies to complete each of the common-sense energy upgrades necessary to finally move our government buildings into the 21st century. The DC Environmental Network could play an important role in this effort.”
Emma Cheuse, Attorney, Earthjustice

The large federal presence in the DC Metro area directly impacts our communities – both economically and environmentally. Nationwide federal buildings consume $7 billion worth of energy or nearly 40% of all energy is consumed by the federal government. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), which is headquartered in our region, is the largest user of energy in the U.S. Preliminary findings from a Global Green USA study have found that a 1% decrease in consumption for the DoD could save over $6 billion due to the large economies of scale and would also keep approximately 6,500 soldiers off dangerous convoy duty. This example demonstrates the great opportunity for military and federal partnerships with the local community in order to lessen the environmental impact and increase the efficiency of operations of the facilities, which will not only benefit operations but also the community at large.

The Challenge

The U.S. government has made progress in recent years through energy efficiency and advanced technologies, but there is still much room for improvement. For example, federal government buildings account for over 8% of the District’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and DoD spends more than $20 million annually on energy costs. Decreasing energy consumption will save taxpayer dollars, increase operational efficiency, and lessen environmental impacts. The challenge is not limited to energy efficiency but the entire supply chain supporting operations must be added to create sustainable operations through green government procurement practices. These best practices can also be implemented at home by federal employees, thus improving not only our federal buildings but also the community as a whole.

DCEN Federal Priorities

  1. Greening the Military – Work with groups like Global Green USA to sponsor roundtables between military and other stakeholders on global warming and sustainability issues. Develop strategies to help the Department of Defense be a model of efficiency in order to develop best practices that can be implemented throughout national and international operations. Work towards a building prototype for solar fueling stations at the Pentagon.
  2. Greening of Federal Buildings – Work directly with the GSA and DOE to increase energy efficiency within federal buildings. Educate federal employees about the benefits of energy and water efficiency.
  3. Creating Equity between the Federal Workforce and the District – Create a more equitable relationship with the federal government addressing the environmental impacts of the hundreds of thousands of daily commuters that come into the District to work in government offices. Develop strategies to help fund the programs necessary to mitigate these impacts in a fair and sustainable manner.

DCEN Accomplishments

  • Working with Earthjustice, Sierra Club and Public Citizen, the DCEN Network has helped lead successful efforts to urge the U.S. Department of Energy to meet its legal duties and ensure that new and renovated federal buildings (nation-wide) include energy-efficiency and other sustainable building design elements, which lead to less energy and water use as well as fewer impacts on the local environment.
  • The Capitol Power Plant has been providing power to our nation’s Capitol Hill complex since 1910. In 2008 and 2009 DCEN worked with Earthjustice, Public Citizen, Sierra Club (DC Chapter) and others to convince Congressional leaders through advocacy to stop using dirty coal as its primary fuel source for its steam generating power plant.

What Can I Do?

  • Contact Global Green USA to get involved
  • Join the DC Environmental Network’s Capital Climate Coalition
  • Track new actions by the Department of Energy and other federal agencies and let them know how important it is to green the federal government.  Urge them to make all energy-efficiency and sustainability updates to their regulations and practices without further delay, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions expeditiously as required by law, and to ensure transparency of public information on the agencies’ progress reports and sustainability plans.  For a list of current rules where DOE is accepting comment, click here and to submit comments on new actions by the President under Executive Order 13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance,” click here.