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The following blog by Ed Osann, NRDC Senior Policy Analyst, Santa Monica, was originally posted in NRDC's The Switchboard blog. The original post is available online here

Kudos to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti for proposing ambitious new water-saving goals for the city.  Hizzoner aims for dramatic reductions in water use over the next two years.  L.A. has already made impressive strides -- water use today is comparable to the 1970s, even with over a million additional residents.  That said, the city still uses a heck of a lot of water – well over 500 million gallons each day – much of it outdoors. 

There are compelling reasons for L.A. to curb its demand for water.  First, we don’t know how long the current drought will last.  Second, we don’t know how soon the next drought will arrive (but it most certainly will).  And third, climate change will affect both the demand for water and the availability of water supplies in ways that could send the cost of water service through the roof.

Given these imperatives, this semi-arid city needs more than short-term curtailments to place its water use on a sustainable footing. New policies need to be put in place to ensure that efficiency gains are enduring, and that water awareness won’t end with the next brief rainfall.

Here are 6 policies that can help meet the mayor's near-term goals and bring lasting gains in water efficiency to Los Angeles:

1.  Revise LA DWP water rates.  The city should aim to have a revised water rate structure in place by July 2015, so that it has enough time in effect to help meet the mayor’s January 2017 target. That means the process should get started this fall. We recommend that DWP evaluate options that would include the following:

  • Single-family residential rates that are fashioned into a 4-tier rate structure, designed to maintain affordability for first tier usage and send a strong price signal to peak-season outdoor use
  • Eliminate the current practice of increasing the lower tier allocations in summer months – this undercuts the very conservation message that the rate structure should be sending, and exacerbates the unfairness of the current rate design
  • Move toward a rate structure that accounts for the number of dwelling units in each multifamily building.  Starting with the largest buildings, collect dwelling unit counts for each apartment building and establish tiered rates based on consumption per dwelling unit.  This will improve the rate design for master metered buildings, and is distinct from submetering (below).
  • Incorporate true seasonal rates (higher on-peak, lower off-peak) into commercial, industrial, and institutional rate designs.

We also recommend that DWP commit to a transparent rate-making process, and allow responsible parties to access a year’s worth of redacted customer consumption information to enable independent analysis of potential rate designs.

2.  Removal of remaining inefficient plumbing fixtures from pre-1994 buildings. The city should consider local enforcement options to implement SB 407 (2009) (Cal. Civil Code § 1101.1 et seq.), which requires all inefficient plumbing fixtures to be replaced with water-conserving plumbing fixtures in single-family residential buildings by January 1, 2017 and in multifamily residential and commercial buildings by January 1, 2019. In cases of properties undergoing major renovations and additions, enforcement of the bill’s requirements falls to local building code officials. In the case of all other existing buildings, SB 407 explicitly authorizes, but does not require, cities, counties, and water suppliers to enact local ordinances or policies to enforce the bill’s provisions. 

As a result of this non-mandatory enforcement responsibility, few, if any, local jurisdictions or water suppliers have adopted mechanisms and policies to ensure full compliance with the requirements of SB 407. Nevertheless, the law is clear that inefficient plumbing fixtures need to be replaced by certain dates and that enforcement power ultimately lies with local jurisdictions, which could even accelerate the replacement deadlines if they chose.  

In addition to the city’s existing retrofit-on-resale requirement, a mix of regulatory and non-regulatory measures could be implemented, including targeted rebates, direct installation programs for low-income residences, replacements in public buildings, and compliance certifications for newly leased rental property and annual business license renewals.

3.  Clothes washer replacement.  

Clothes Washer - High Efficiency Samsung Eco Bubble (Samsung Wikimedia).jpgA legacy-design top-loading washer with a center agitator uses about 3 times the amount of water per load as today’s most-efficient new washers.  Washing clothes with a legacy washer consumes about 20% of a household’s total indoor water use, or about 10% of total water use (i.e., including outdoor use).  With the mayor calling for consumers to reduce water use by 20%, a family that retires its old top-loader can realize about one-third of the savings the mayor is asking for by taking this one single action.  The city could accelerate retirement of inefficient washers by:

  • implementing a direct install program for replacement of inefficient top-loaders in low-income residences
  • suspending the city portion of the sales tax on the purchase of new Energy Star clothes washers by Los Angeles residents during  CY 2015
  • preventing used top loaders from coming back into service wasting more water by offering a rebate for working inefficient top-loading washers picked up or traded in from a Los Angeles address

4.  Multifamily submetering. Meter_water (Wikicommons).JPG

Water metering and volumetric pricing are essential tools to provide city residents with an accurate price signal regarding their water use.  However, most apartment buildings receive water service through a single, utility-owned master meter, leaving owners to recover the cost of the entire building’s water service in the rent, or allocate the cost among the residents as a uniform charge, which hides the true cost of water usage by individual occupants. 

Residents in apartments will not know how much water they use unless water entering each unit is measured.  Studies have shown that water submeters are associated with decreased water usage.  The National Multiple Family Sub-metering and Allocation Study (2004), sponsored by the US EPA, EBMUD, and San Diego County, among others, found water savings of 15.3% when comparing sub-metered properties with rental properties that do not bill water separately from rent (“in-rent” properties).  Another study showed water usage in sub-metered properties to be 18% to 39% less than in-rent properties. 

Tenant protection issues are important, and should apply to any submetered building.  But all new multifamily buildings should be required to install submeters, unless site-specific engineering criteria preclude their installation and use.

5.  Water use benchmarking and disclosure for large buildings.  AB 1103 (2007) requires energy benchmarking and selected disclosure for non-residential buildings.  Under AB 1103, building owners input energy consumption and other building data into the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager software system, which generates an energy efficiency rating for the building.  Los Angeles should expand on this new state requirement by:

  • including water use as well as energy use (which Portfolio Manager can accommodate)
  •  include large multi-family buildings as well as commercial buildings
  • require annual public disclosure, rather than simply disclosure to a building’s prospective purchasers and lessees

6. End sprinkler irrigation of parkway strips.  

Overspray 3 with caption.jpg

Narrow parkway strips along street rights of way (the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the curb) are almost impossible to efficiently irrigate with sprinklers.  Their narrow shape and exposure to foot traffic results in broken and misaligned spray heads sending water into the gutter all too often, frequently during nighttime periods when the water waste is less apparent. 

The city should take an inventory of all parkway strips, and beginning with narrow (four feet or less) strips, require the removal of sprinkler irrigation and replacement with drip irrigation, xeriscape vegetation, porous pavers, or some combination of these treatments.  As experience with the program grows, wider strips can be targeted as well.

Los Angles has a colorful history when it comes to water.  But we don’t need a private eye a la Chinatown to find water being wasted today.  Water use data indicates clearly that landscapes continue to be overwatered and that old plumbing and appliances still take their toll.  The city needs to price water more sensibly and ensure that today’s water-saving technologies are available to all.  The mayor’s call for savings is a great start.  The rest of us need to roll up our sleeves and help make it happen.

Posted In: California, Natural Resources Defense Council

The following blog post by Jon Devine was originally posted in NRDC's Switchboard blog. The original post is available online here

About eight years ago, several industry lobby groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, asked the Supreme Court to gut the Clean Water Act.  The American Farm Bureau Federation specifically argued that Clean Water Act safeguards didn’t extend to streams that you can’t float a boat on (plus waters that had previously been navigable or could be made to be navigable), or to the wetlands nearby, even though such water bodies had long been included within the Act’s various pollution control programs.  The waterways that they targeted are enormously important; those streams help supply drinking water for 117 million Americans, and wetlands filter pollution and trap flood water.

Although the Supreme Court refused to eviscerate the law, the attacks were partially successful, because they spawned Court opinions and policies from the prior administration that have created enormous uncertainty about what the law protects, and that made it more difficult and time-consuming to adequately prevent and remedy pollution of a variety of long-protected water bodies.

Now that the Obama administration has proposed its Clean Water Protection Rule to partially undo this rollback and restore full and clear protections to scores of critical waters now in legal limbo, the American Farm Bureau Federation is back on the attack. The problem is that it is peddling a bunch of misleading or entirely false claims.

DTR_Graphic_Final_LG.jpg 

To help sort out the truth, we’ve produced the graphic above, which analyzes some of AFBF’s myths. The myths discussed here are all in the form of tweets that the American Farm Bureau Federation is asking people to send as part of its campaign against the rule.

Why does it matter what misinformation an organization that has publicly fought to weaken the Clean Water Act is spreading about the Clean Water Protection Rule?  Because some media outlets have reported these claims as fact and because a number of Senators and Representatives are echoing these arguments while pushing legislation that would kill the proposed rule.  You’ll see some of the most outrageous examples debunked in this Media Matters post.  There’s a real danger that this commonsense – and very restrained – proposal will be undone by these misleading attacks.

It also matters because this sadly isn’t the first time we’ve seen this cynical strategy used to undermine attempts to restore protections to the nation’s waters.  Back in the late ‘00s, several leaders in Congress developed legislation called the Clean Water Restoration Act to reaffirm the traditional protections of the Clean Water Act, and industry lobby groups (including the American Farm Bureau Federation) banded together to form a cryptically-named partnership called the “Waters Advocacy Coalition” to fight the initiative.  A New York Times piece about the battle discussed their tactics then:

But a broad coalition of industries has often successfully lobbied to prevent the full Congress from voting on such proposals by telling farmers and small-business owners that the new legislation would permit the government to regulate rain puddles and small ponds and layer new regulations on how they dispose of waste.

“The game plan is to emphasize the scary possibilities,” said one member of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, which has fought the legislation and is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Home Builders and other groups representing industries affected by the Clean Water Act.

“If you can get Glenn Beck to say that government storm troopers are going to invade your property, farmers in the Midwest will light up their congressmen’s switchboards,” said the coalition member, who asked not to be identified because he thought his descriptions would anger other coalition participants. Mr. Beck, a conservative commentator on Fox News, spoke at length against the Clean Water Restoration Act in December.

And here we go again, though this time the attacks target a proposal that is far less inclusive than the legislation would have been.  Indeed, NRDC and many of our partners believe that the rule needs to be strengthened in key respects.  Even the agencies’ much more limited approach, however, hasn’t made a dent in clean water opponents’ over-the-top rhetoric.

That’s why we think it’s so important to look closely at these claims, and why we produced this infographic.  But there are other great resources out there that I hope you will consider and make up your own mind.  In particular, please read the rule – the actual text of the proposed rule is very brief and straightforward.  EPA also recently put out a Q&A document that speaks to some of the claims that have been made about the rule, especially pertaining to agriculture.

Finally, if the American Farm Bureau Federal insists on continuing its wild accusations about the rule, then NRDC hereby offers to debate AFBF publicly on the rule.  Let’s air the arguments face-to-face on whether it’s needed, is consistent with the law as the Supreme Court has interpreted it, goes far enough or too far, and what it would actually do.

Posted In: Natural Resources Defense Council

The following blog by Rob Moore has been cross-posted from the NRDC's Switchboard blog. The original post is available online here

A lawsuit filed in Illinois by Farmers Insurance claims that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), the City of Chicago, and 101 other municipalities and county offices has gotten attention recently from the Chicago Tribune, the Washington PostMarketplace , and  E&E News.  Farmers Insurance claims that MWRD and the municipalities are liable for damages resulting from a storm in April 2013 because they knew that their stormwater infrastructure was insufficient to deal with extreme precipitation brought on in part by climate change.

Flooding in Chicago area, April 2013.  Image courtesy of dan4kent by dan4kent is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.Setting aside the merits of the case or whether MWRD and the cities named in the complaint are at fault or not, rest assured that you’ll be seeing more cases like this one.  Litigation is a symptom of what happens when the response to a recognized problem is insufficient.  The system breaks down when remedies are not evident and parties take their claims to court to find relief. That’s certainly the situation when looking at preparedness for climate impacts.

Federal, state, and local governments clearly have a responsibility to identify the future impacts of climate change, the risks posed by those impacts, and to plan and prepare accordingly.  This is starting to happen at all levels of government, but not at the pace we need if we are to keep ahead of the curve.

We are in the middle of the biggest risk management exercise of all time.  And so far, we’re not moving fast enough to deal with risks of flooding, drought, sea level rise, etc. that will continue to grow in scale, frequency, and complexity.  Our systems for managing stormwater, wastewater, and drinking water are not designed with the future impacts of climate change in mind.  Neither are our energy or transportation systems. 

There is a real role for the industry to advocate for solutions and use their clout to help advance them. But the insurance industry has not been particularly vocal about the need to deal with climate change, with the exception of the big re-insurance companies like Munich Re, Swiss Re, and Zurich Re (the companies that sell insurance to insurance companies and cover their losses). Nor has the industry in general factored in the risks climate change poses to its business.

According to a climate risk disclosure survey of 184 insurance companies compiled by Ceres, very few primary insurers (the companies you and I deal with for insurance) are factoring climate change risks into their operations. “Out of 184 companies, only eleven provided disclosure of sufficient quality and detail to tally more than half the eligible points in two of the four domains,” covered by the survey. It’s worth noting that Farmers was among those eleven, as were some of the biggest re-insurance companies on the planet including Munich Re, Swiss Re, and Zurich.

We all need to get ready for what the future is already serving up.  Extreme precipitation events that cause flooding, sea level rise, the increasing risk of drought and water scarcity.  We are going to be dealing with a lot of new challenges from here on out and we are going to be dealing with them far more frequently.  Those that are smart enough to look ahead and start preparing for our climate future are going to find it a lot easier to deal with those challenges.

For the insurance industry, it is time to get cracking. Beyond trying to find others to pay the price for inaction, they should be more engaged in the solutions discussion. That means looking at the properties they insure, the investments they make to hedge against losses, and even their active support for actions to on preparing for climate impacts and to slow climate change, such as the Obama administration’s upcoming carbon pollution standards for power plants. It's not just the right thing to do for their bottom line; it’s the right thing to do.

Posted In: Climate Change, Natural Resources Defense Council

The following blog is by cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defence Council Switchboard blog, written by Christina Angelides, NRDC.

America’s manufacturing sector is the largest in the world and reducing energy waste at industrial facilities can provide huge benefits for the companies, workers, and the communities in which they work.  That was reinforced yesterday by the BlueGreen Alliance, a partnership of labor unions and environmental organizations that includes NRDC, with its new Policy on Industrial Energy Efficiency.

The Alliance’s latest policy brief recommends both long-term goals and short-term strategies and federal investments to get us moving in the right direction.  Those strategies include helping companies access financing, supporting cutting-edge technology development to aid our domestic industries in reducing their energy costs, and driving demand for industrial energy efficiency improvement projects.

(Pictured Left: Sikorsky Manufacturing Plant in Stratford, CT)

The U.S. manufacturing sector, which supports nearly 12 million jobs and represents $1.8 trillion worth of gross domestic product, needs to become more energy-efficient to ward off increasing global competition, too.

There’s a great deal that companies and their workers can do together to capture energy savings, create and retain good-paying jobs, and cut pollution in their communities, as the BlueGreen Alliance’s policy brief notes.  The potential for industrial energy efficiency is huge--$47 billion in energy bill savings are currently being left on the table in our industrial sector and cost-effective investments in industrial energy efficiency could reduce energy use by about 20 percent by 2020, according to a McKinsey study. However, financial and other barriers still stand in the way of capturing this potential.

Seeing the Benefits Firsthand

Many of BlueGreen Alliance’s union members already have experienced firsthand the benefits of industrial energy-savings measures in their workplaces:

These workers are all at the forefront of identifying and implementing these measures that will not only cut bottom-line energy costs for their employers, but also boost the competiveness and productivity of our domestic industries.

 

(Pictured Left: ArcelorMittal, Department of Energy, and elected officials at a groundbreaking in front of North America's largest blast furnace, Source: DOE)

Much More Can Be Done

There’s so much more we can do. But, as NRDC’s Executive Director Peter Lehner noted in BGA’s release, we need bold leadership and concerted investments to ensure our manufacturing industry has the tools and resources it needs to cut energy waste, costs, and pollution.  President Obama took a big step last year in advancing national goals for our industry with his Administration’s Executive Order on Accelerating Investment in Industrial Energy Efficiency. The President's recently announced Climate Action Plan will also do much to leverage the energy-saving potential in our manufacturing sector.

But more action is desperately needed by our leaders in Washington to support these goals.  BlueGreen Alliance’s policy recommends a suite of short-term strategies that Congress can adopt to get us on the road to meeting them, including:

We can boost the competiveness of our industries and create and retain jobs through cost-effective energy efficiency improvements—all while improving the health and welfare of our communities.  Our industries and workers have the know-how and proven commercial technologies to spur an industrial energy efficiency revolution. Now we need action by our leaders to support catalysts for industry action, deepened industry expertise and knowledge of existing and new technologies, and standards to drive industry innovation and market demand. Let’s get to work!

Posted In: Natural Resources Defense Council

This blog is cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defence Council's Blog. It is by Frances Beinecke, President of the NRDC.

Millions of Americans woke up Tuesday morning to a changed world. Hurricane Sandy had flooded our streets, ripped down our power lines, and tossed trees into ours homes. Cars, boats, and debris carried by surging waters lay scattered along the roads. Towns and cities had been pummeled, and the storm wasn’t even finished yet. New Jersey was still getting gusts of up to 40 miles per hour and West Virginia was receiving up to 2 feet of snow. Eight million people didn’t have power and probably wouldn’t for days.

It will take months to assess the scope of Sandy’s destruction. But already we know this: the storm didn’t just break records. It upturned lives. Homes, businesses, medical needs, travel plans, nest eggs and more were threatened by the storm. More than 55 people died.

These are the true costs of extreme weather. Now that climate change is increasing the power and frequency of storms like Sandy, more people will be paying the price.

Some leaders ignore climate change, some belittle it, and others counsel patience.  Yet people living in the path of Hurricane Sandy understand that America can’t wait any longer to protect our communities from more extreme weather events.


Queens.Jennifer.Merschdorf.jpb.jpg

Queens, New York. Photo credit: Jennifer Merschdorf

My own communities are among the hardest hit. I grew up in New Jersey and I live in New York, and I never saw anything like Sandy before.  Battery Park, Red Hook, and other neighborhoods were inundated by a 13-foot storm surge. A New York Fire Department company had to evacuate their headquarters via boat. People had to be rescued from their attics when flood waters submerged their Staten Island homes. Atlantic City’s iconic boardwalk was torn to shreds. Empty train cars washed up on the New Jersey Turnpike and had to be lifted off with a crane. New Jersey Governor Christie ordered urban search and rescue missions to try to save people who had not fled in advance of the storm.

“Urban search and rescue” was not a term I heard growing up here, but we have entered a new era. Climate change has begun to make its presence known. It is heating up our oceans and pumping hurricanes and other storms with extra energy, more moisture, and stronger winds. It is swelling our seas, so that storm surges are higher and cause more flooding. From Norfolk, Virginia to Boston, sea levels are rising four times as fast as the global average. Hurricane Sandy cut right along those swollen seas. 

Hoboken.PATH.Station.Port Authority of NY and NJ.jpg

Hoboken PATH Station. Photo credit: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Climate change has become pervasive. “The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question,” writes Kevin E. Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.”

I know New York and New Jersey are resilient places. I have seen them recover from terrorist attacks and economic downturns, and I am confident communities up and down the East Coast will recover from Hurricane Sandy.

But when will we stop asking them to rebuild in the wake of disasters? When will we start confronting the challenge of climate change before more people are endangered? When will we begin arming our towns and cities with the tools they need to respond to extreme weather?

The longer we wait to have an open national conversation about climate change, the more communities will be in harm’s way. We live in the richest country in the 21st century. Surely we can have a civil conversation about how to prepare and deal with climate change. We can discuss the science, we can debate the politics, we can dispute the policy measures. But we cannot wait any longer.

We must honor the people who suffered through Hurricane Sandy—and the Midwestern drought and the Western wildfires and the numerous other extreme weather events of 2012—and we must confront climate change.

Posted In: Climate Change, Natural Resources Defense Council

The following blog is cross-posted from the NRDC's Switchboard blog.

Energy efficiency and sustainability should be standard business practice for every company. Just listen to Global Head / Sustainability Initiatives at Bloomberg, L.P., Curtis Ravenel explain his views on it:

“This is very consistent with just good business because if you have environmental impact, that means you likely have waste. And if you have waste, you probably have some inefficiency. And if you have some inefficiency, then you likely have money on the table and there’s an opportunity to improve your operating performance.”

Sustainable operations and maintenance increases occupant health and safety, prolongs the life of building finishes and systems, and uses healthier, ecofriendly products and procedures. Sustainable workplaces provide the most effective work environments and strategies at the lowest life-cycle cost. When sustainable workplace concepts are integrated with an organization’s mission, the organization can make decisions that benefit their people, the environment, and their bottom line.

For more information and to see our partners discuss the Tenant Demonstration Project, please visit our website on the commitment at http://www.nrdc.org/business/CGI/.

Posted In: Energy Efficiency, Natural Resources Defense Council

The following is cross-posted from the NRDC's Switchboard blog.

Wrapping paper sales drives, cereal box top campaigns, donation solicitations—as a child of California’s public school system, I was introduced early to fundraising. And while I have nothing but fond memories for the rotating disco ball awarded to me as a top magazine seller of my middle school, I am now beginning to wonder, what if there was a better way to close the funding gap?

Ohio legislators and schools have an answer: a resounding yes, in the form of energy efficiency. Recently named the nation’s leader in energy-efficient schools259 of them LEED certified—Ohio’s education system, by using technologies and retrofitting inefficient buildings to use energy more efficiently, is redirecting capital from fossil fuels toward the schools’ bottom line: improving education. Implementing energy efficiency upgrades saves an average of $100,000 in annual operating costs, or enough money to hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks.

While there are many factors that have led to this favorable outcome, including supporting state policies like Senate Bill 221, playing a central role is energy efficiency performance contractor Brewer-Garrett.

Providing energy efficiency services for more than half a century, Brewer-Garrett works in local schools, manufacturing facilities—including a cheese factory—, and commercial buildings to maximize the efficiency of their energy consumption and minimize their energy bills. Based in the Cleveland area, the company’s long-term success can be traced to the always-in-demand service they provide: lower energy bills.

“Money is tight in Ohio,” says Energy Service Sales Consultant Dan Mitchell.  “[Clients are wondering]” where do you save money?  How do you make improvements?”

Energy efficiency performance contracting is one surefire way. Through a partnership—“marriage, really,” says Mitchell, Brewer-Garrett guarantees that a client aiming to increase a building’s energy efficiency will see significant enough savings to makemoney off of their initial investment, sometimes within as little as two years.  If a client does not see a project’s savings exceed its costs, Brewer-Garrett writes the customer a check for the difference.  “We have a lot of skin in the game,” says Mitchell. “We’re not in the business to write checks.”

What’s more, the company, employing analysts, engineers, and contractors, offers not only audits and consulting, but also the engineering expertise to see a project through in entirety. “A turnkey solution,” says Mitchell, and one that helps clients unlock energy savings to reduce local pollution and energy bills.

In a region struggling to retain capital and jobs, saving money otherwise exported to import dirty energy is a very smart investment indeed.  As more and more buildings realize these savings, more and more jobs are created, both by the building owners and by Brewer-Garrett, which, in addition to hiring nearly ten percent of its 150 person workforce in the past year, is still on the lookout for more new employees.

Beyond increasing its own workforce, Brewer-Garrett is impacting the economy of Cleveland—and Ohio as a whole—by retaining local capital to support job creation. How does energy efficiency create jobs?  As the amount people spend on energy bills declines, the money that would have been spent on fossil fuels is instead redirected to hamburgers and haircuts, which take more labor per dollar to produce.

The economic advantages of energy efficiency are indeed plentiful, but a different type of green benefit cannot be forgotten: the emissions reductions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. “The greenest energy is the energy you don’t use,” Mitchell points out. Having completed projects that cumulatively save 96 million kilowatt-hours annually, Brewer-Garrett’s work is equivalent to taking nearly 13,000 cars off of the road. Given that Ohio’s electricity is largely generated from dirty coal-fired power plants, these savings have significant environmental, as well as health, implications.

And many projects also have educational implications beyond the monetary savings they provide for schools, by engaging students in the upgrade process. Cleveland State, currently working with Brewer-Garrett on improvements slated to reduce the school’s energy consumption 20%—saving $62.9 million—by 2021, utilizes the efficiency initiative to educate students on energy management. Students of other Ohio schoolsare also benefitting from the hands-on learning opportunities that come with energy efficiency upgrades.

To see that student and faculty engagement plays an integral role in a school’s energy management scheme, Brewer-Garrett partners with energy education specialist theGreen Apple Project to translate their energy upgrades into curricula. Employing an energy project education toolkit that includes, among other things, technologies that measure the energy use of different appliances, the Green Apple Project engages students to be aware of energy management both in school and at home.

Especially in today’s world, lessons in energy efficiency seem much more valuable than the ones I got selling wrapping paper.

Image 1: Brewer-Garrett partnered with Great Lakes Cheese to increase the efficiency of their operations and drive down energy costs. Credit: Greg McDonald, Brewer-Garrett.

Image 2: The recently completed student center at Cleveland State is LEED certified. Credit: Brewer-Garrett.

Posted In: Ohio, Energy Efficiency, Green Schools, Natural Resources Defense Council

The following is cross-posted from the NRDC's Switchboard.

I was on the road this week in Ohio, briefing various transportation advocates and agency officials on NRDC's new polling data showing strong support for more balanced transport policies that favor public transit.

On the flight to Cleveland I perused the most recent issue of The Atlantic magazine and came across an interesting article about why the so-called Millenial generation isn't buying cars or houses. It touched on key issues raised in our poll by noting the undeniable "shift away from traditional suburbs toward denser, urban-light living." The point was that the younger generation is pushing American society toward more sharing and closer living, which favors investment in transit over roads that feed sprawl.

That story dovetailed nicely with a CNN article earlier this week entitled, "Young Americans ditch the car." Apparently it's not just the recession that's keeping young people from this particular rite of passage. As the article explains, "One reason is demographic: The re-urbanization of America is giving more people access to public transportation. The advent of Zipcar and other car-on-demand businesses is eliminating the need to own and insure an expensive vehicle that often isn't driven much. But mostly it's the explosion of social media. Car ownership just may not be as socially important as it used to be."

The implication is that young people are opting out of auto-dependency because they can, thanks to smart phones that allow them to socialize with friends and also the fact that many Millenials are able to live car-free lifestyles in urban areas that offer mobility via public transportation. All the more reason to invest more in transit.

Then, yesterday, as I read USA Today over breakfast in the hotel I spotted a front-page story proclaiming front porches as the "must have" in housing. Thanks to consumer demand, these days two-thirds of new houses are smaller and feature a front porch. (I added a front porch to my house five years ago, so I get the appeal.) But smack-dab in the middle of the piece was this eye-opening comment from Stephen Melman, with the National Association of Home Builders, who called it a positive trend for "public transportation if new construction is starting to be built closer to employment centers or transit." That was followed by a quote from a Philly-based developer who confirmed, "That's what the market wants."

Yet another clarion call for more transit investment!

Finally, today the USA Today ran another related story -- this one about the decline in solo drivers commuting to work in this country. Partly due to "the dismal economy and skyrocketing gas prices" -- and I would argue the market forces driven by Millenials' lack of driving -- "the share of workers driving to work alone dropped slightly from 2010 to 2011 while commutes on public transportation rose nationally and in some of the largest metropolitan areas," according to new Census data. About two-thirds of U.S. metropolitan areas saw jumps in residents using public transit while the share driving to work alone dropped in about two-thirds or more. Just this week the American Public Transportation Association reported the sixth consecutive quarterly increase in ridership (with rail showing the biggest jump).

The reporter dubbed this "group commuting" -- riding buses, trains, subways or sharing cars or vans. I would call it common sense. After all, who wants to fight traffic every day when commuting by transit is so much easier and cheaper? Of course, that's easier said than done for most people. All the more reason to invest in expanding public transportation to make it more accessible and convenient for more Americans to use it.

Posted In: Transportation, Natural Resources Defense Council

Congress BreakThe following blog post is from Andreas Marcotty, Legislative and Policy Aide for the BlueGreen Alliance. 

As Congress returns to DC this week, clean energy advocates across the country are making a stronger case than ever for the support of the American wind industry and economic benefits waiting to be unleashed. After members of Congress left Washington, D.C. to head home for the August recess, over 1,500 wind energy jobs across the country were either lost or put in question due to their failure to extend the Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit for offshore wind. These are critical measures for maintaining the progress the industry has made, and maintaining these 21st century clean energy jobs. 

Three reports by BlueGreen Alliance partners—two by the Natural Resources Defense Council and one by the National Wildlife Federation— layout the state of play for both onshore and offshore wind; driving home the point that wind has and will work for American jobs and an American energy source, if the opportunity is seized. 

NRDC highlights the effects of job creation and economic stimulus from just one American wind farm, revealing that 1,079 direct jobs are generated, the majority of which in are manufacturing, construction and operation and highlights the power of a domestic supply chain. 

Additionally, NRDC looks at the community benefits of embracing wind power as an additional revenue source and enabling further economic development (not to mention on average $8,000 per windmill for rural landowners). A strong wind energy industry compounds manufacturing activity and workforce development as shown in Canton, Ohio among surrounding areas where 19 communities are involved in the wind supply chain, including the first center for wind energy development and research of its kind. 

The National Wildlife Association draws special attention to the unique role offshore wind could play for the United States. Their report: “The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy: Time for Action to Create Jobs, Reduce Pollution, Protect Wildlife & Secure America’s Energy Future” outlines a way forward to capture the massive wind resources off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. NWF found that by generating wind from just 4% of the 54 gigawatts of the identified energy available, the United States could benefit from $200 billion in economic activity and 300,000 jobs. 

These reports agree on many things, but chief among them, is that clean energy can provide a way forward for a 21st century clean energy economy, and that the American worker will take us there.

Hear BGA's Yvette Pena Lops on the National Wildlife Federation's call below.

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Posted In: Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council

Today, the White House finalized cleaner car standards that will increase fuel efficiency to the equivalent of 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025. Achieving this would nearly double the fuel efficiency of cars and pickup trucks on the road today and cut carbon emissions per vehicle mile traveled nearly in half.

Below is the BlueGreen Alliance statement from our Executive Director David Foster:

These cleaner car standards will create 570,000 new jobs here in the U.S.—50,000 in parts manufacturing and vehicle assembly of light-duty vehicles alone—and add a net increase of about $75 billion in annual Gross Domestic Product by 2030 to the U.S. economy. Fuel savings consumers will see from these cleaner, more efficient cars and light trucks will far outweigh slightly higher costs for these advanced vehicles—benefiting workers, their families, and the economy as a whole. 

“These standards are an incredible victory. Already, Americans are flocking to these more fuel-efficient cars, creating jobs here at home and reducing carbon pollution and our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. 

“Supported by automakers, union members, environmental organizations, consumer groups and citizens across the country, this is truly an American success story—and a model for how government and industry can work together to achieve goals that benefit our economy and environment. “


We weren't the only ones who were excited about this important event. Our labor and environmental partners also praised this effort by the Obama adminsitration to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gas emissions, while creating good jobs for American workers. Below are excerpts from statements from some of our partners:

United Autoworkers President Bob King

UAW President Bob King said, “These new standards will help propel the auto industry forward by giving American families long-term relief from volatile fuel prices. Lowering the total cost of driving will make automobiles more affordable and expand the market for new vehicles.”

“The standards will also provide certainty for manufacturers in planning their investments and creating jobs in the auto industry as they add more fuel-saving technology to their vehicles. Bringing this additional content to market requires more engineers and more factory workers, expanding employment in the industry,” King added. A 2012 study by the BlueGreen Alliance, “Gearing Up,” found that the standards finalized today will lead to the creation of 570,000 new jobs by 2030, largely because consumers will spend less on fuel and more on other goods and services.

“This new standard caps off a remarkable set of achievements by President Obama to save the domestic auto industry and put it on a path to long-term prosperity,” said King. “Cleaner vehicles that significantly reduce our nation’s oil consumption are good for the auto industry and its workers, good for the environment and good for our nation’s economy.”


Natural Resources Defense Council
 President Frances Beinecke

These standards will save consumers $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and cut our oil imports by one-third. They also represent the biggest step America has taken to reduce carbon pollution and combat climate change.

Building cleaner cars is already helping regain something America lost over the last few decades. Detroit once led the world in auto design and engineering prowess, but innovations stalled and foreign competitors passed us by. Driving used to be a symbol of American freedom and mobility, but soaring gas prices resulted in costly commutes and staycations.

We can reignite America’s love affair with the open road and our patriotic pride in American ingenuity. If U.S. engineers made it possible for every new car to include a computer more powerful than the one that sent a man to the moon, then surely they can produce cars that go farther on a gallon of gas.

They can, and they are.


National Wildlife Federation
 President and CEO Larry Schweiger

“New fuel efficiency rules are a win across the board – drivers will save money with more efficient vehicles, automakers will get the regulatory certainty they need, and all Americans will benefit from cleaner air, a stronger economy, and greater energy security. This administration deserves credit for finding common ground among a broad range of stakeholders, showing government can work for Americans to solve our biggest environmental and economic problems.


Union of Concerned Scientists
Director of Clean Vehicles program Michelle Robinson

“This is truly a watershed moment. Twenty years from now we’ll be looking back on this as the day we chose innovation over stagnation,” said Michelle Robinson, director of UCS’s Clean Vehicles program. “These standards will protect consumers from high gas prices, curb global warming pollution, cut our oil use, and create new jobs in the American auto industry and around the nation.”


Sierra Club
Executive Director Michael Brune

"With June and July registering as the hottest months on record, and droughts ravaging America’s heartland, these standards are a major victory for our planet and our families. They will also save families thousands of dollars at the pump and create more than half a million new jobs.

"American automakers are roaring back as leaders of the global market because they are delivering what consumers want -- vehicles that use less gas, emit less pollution, and save families more money at the pump. Today Sierra Club, automakers, and autoworkers stand together to celebrate success for American industry, jobs, and the environment.” 

Posted In: Auto, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Auto Workers, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation
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