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October 15, 2009

Obama Directs Federal Agencies to Reduce Emissions
    by Robert Kropp

Executive Order requires Federal agencies to set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets within 90 days. -- President Obama's determination to act decisively on climate change, already apparent in recent rulings by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and proposals by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), took another step forward last week, when he issued an Executive Order "to establish an integrated strategy towards sustainability in the Federal Government and to make reduction of greenhouse gas emissions a priority for Federal agencies."

The actions by the Obama administration, which have thus far included regulatory action on mandatory greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reporting and reduction, have come at a time when the likelihood of the US Senate passing meaningful climate change legislation in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) in December seems increasingly remote.

The Executive Order requires that within 90 days, Federal agencies set reduction targets of scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by fiscal year 2020, relative to a 2008 baseline. The Executive Order advises Federal agencies to consider reductions of energy intensity in buildings, increased usage of renewable energy sources, and reductions in the use of fossil fuels by agency vehicles.

In addition, Federal agencies are required to submit plans for the reduction of scope 3 GHG emissions within 240 days. Scope 3 emissions are those emitted by such indirect sources as supply chains and corporate air travel.

The Executive Order also requires agencies to meet a number of specific targets, including a 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use and a 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020, and a 50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015.

The potential environmental impact of the Executive Order can be discerned by the sheer size of the Federal government's holdings. It occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services.

"As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies," said President Obama. "This Executive Order builds on the momentum of the Recovery Act to help create a clean energy economy and demonstrates the Federal government’s commitment, over and above what is already being done, to reducing emissions and saving money."

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