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U.S. Government Expands Support for Corporate Energy-Efficiency Programs

Government measures are ensuring that companies' reduce their carbon footprint, while still encouraging their growth and international competitiveness.

Peter Belisle, President of Energy and Sustainability Services, Jones Lang LaSalle (Apr/May 10)
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Energy Performance Rating and Disclosure - New York City; Washington, D.C.; Seattle; and Austin, Texas, as well as California and Washington State require commercial buildings to disclose ENERGY STAR ratings in at least some cases. New York's new rules also require energy audits of all large buildings, including corporate-owned facilities. Maryland has introduced legislation, and similar moves are under consideration in San Francisco; Portland, Oregon; and the state of Oregon. Most states and jurisdictions are using the Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR program to rate commercial buildings, although the Department of Energy has committed to develop new commercial rating and labeling tools for the marketplace.

Regional Cap-and-Trade - One cap-and-trade system is operational in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and another is in development on the West Coast. Competitive concerns in the face of the recession have caused both systems to lose some momentum.

LEED requirements - Criteria are now in place in 202 cities and counties and across 34 states, many of them encompassing private-sector as well as public-sector buildings, and the number of these laws continues to increase.

SEC Guidance - A Securities & Exchange Commission memorandum in January interprets existing rules regarding public company disclosures relating to climate risk. Companies may be required to disclose risk factors relating to climate change, and to intensify efforts to measure and disclose carbon footprint data.

Other Far-Reaching Measures
In addition to governmental measures discussed in the webinar, other federal regulations and orders may also have far-reaching effects on businesses, as follows:

• An executive order signed in October 2009 required federal agencies to report baseline 2008 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by January 4, 2010, and to submit a 2020 GHG pollution-reduction target from the baseline. Based on 35 reduction targets submitted by 35 agencies, President Obama set a goal for the federal government to reduce its GHG pollution 28 percent by 2020, saving $8 billion to $11 billion and reducing emissions equivalent to taking 17 million cars off the road.

• The General Service Administration (GSA) is implementing new standards for buildings occupied by government agencies. All new construction projects and substantial renovations undertaken by GSA - including build-to-suit for lease facilities of 10,000 square feet or more - must achieve LEED Silver certification, with a goal to achieve LEED Gold whenever possible. Also, when GSA client agencies request it, LEED for Commercial Interiors (LEED-CI) "green lease" guidelines may be used in location selection, lease negotiation, and build-out.

The accelerating pace of government measures has become an important factor driving U.S. building owners and occupiers toward enhanced energy efficiency and reduced GHG emissions. Despite the economic recession and the slow pace of Congressional action, the country is clearly moving in the direction of a lower-carbon economy that supports, rather than hinders, business growth and international competitiveness.

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