President Obama Ups the Sustainability Ante with a New Executive Order


On March 19, 2015, President Obama revoked Executive Order 13514 in favor of a broader, more stringent federal requirement, an Executive Order titled “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade.”  The new order, which calls for an aggressive 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions among federal agencies and improved environmental performance in the supply chain and agency operations, takes the most assertive position on sustainability from the White House to date.  The far-reaching order calls for reductions in electricity, thermal heat, water consumption, fleet vehicle emissions, and waste, and improvements in building efficiency, procurement, and sustainability management.

Government is the single largest consumer of energy in the U.S., with the Department of Defense consuming the lion’s share (78% in 2013).  In an effort to improve their environmental performance—reducing impact as well as taxpayer expense–federal agencies have focused on retrofits, building efficiency, and lowered consumption of fuel.  The new order will ask agencies to dig even deeper to meet new targets over the next 10 years.

In the first 90 days of the order, agencies will be required to present reduction targets for all three emission scopes to the CEQ and OMB to be achieved by the end of the 2025 fiscal year (relative to a 2008 baseline).  The order further specifies the means by which these targets will be achieved, including promoting built space energy conservation and management, improving data center efficiency, and spelling out specific percentages of renewable utilization—via onsite installation or renewable energy credits (RECs), reaching 25-30% per agency by 2025.  The order calls for additional reductions from fleet vehicles, including requirements that fleet composition include at least 20% zero emission new vehicles.

Agencies must also demonstrate improvement in water use by reducing water consumption intensity by 36% by 2025, to be achieved via proactive water conservation and management, reduction in landscaping water use, and the installation of green infrastructure to manage stormwater and wastewater.  Waste must also be diverted a minimum of 50% annually.

Further requirements of the order mandate improved building performance, going so far as to instruct that new construction of federal buildings achieve energy net zero and that emissions from leased space be reported in greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories.  The order also clearly spells out expectations for procurement actions, including EPA-designated recycled, efficient, and environmentally preferable products and services.

Implementation of the order will lie with the offices of the CEQ and the OMB and all agencies are asked to designate a Chief Sustainability Officer, responsible for the administration of the order.  The CEQ will also be responsible for coordinating and publishing agency GHG inventories.

While the previous EO 13514 came under scrutiny for lacking the teeth necessary to require its implementation, it remains to be seen how readily federal agencies will comply with these rigorous new expectations.  Will agencies comply with the requirements and follow the lead of thousands of private and publicly-held companies already adopting even more rigorous environmental practices?

By | 2015-03-30T20:48:06+00:00 March 30th, 2015|Environmental Blog|

About the Author:

Amy brings 20 years’ experience in leadership and organizations to her work in sustainability communications for Renewable Choice. She earned her M.Ed. at Colorado State University.