White House seeks to cut federal building emissions 30% by 2030

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks during a meeting at the State Department in Washington, U.S., February 7, 2022. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo/File Photo/File Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday launched the first standard on cutting carbon emissions from federal buildings as part of the Biden administration's policy on curbing climate change.

The Federal Building Performance Standard requires federal agencies to cut energy use and electrify equipment and appliances to achieve zero emissions in 30% of their buildings by square footage space by 2030. U.S. President Joe Biden wants federal buildings to be emissions free by 2045 as part of his goal of decarbonizing the economy by 2050.

To get there, agencies will be buying American-made products such as heat pumps, electric water heaters and other energy efficiency technologies, the White House said. The U.S. government is the largest owner and operator of buildings in the country.

The standard could be overturned by an incoming president whose policy on climate change differs from Biden's.

But Brenda Mallory, head of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters that administration officials expect efforts to progress as efficiency saves money. "Once we are underway on these plans they really make so much sense for the federal government in terms of the cost, in terms of really reducing both our footprint and the impacts that our operations are causing," she said.

The Department of Energy (DOE) also said on Wednesday it is seeking public comments on a proposed rule that would set emissions reductions targets and more electrification in new federal buildings as well as federal buildings undertaking major renovations.

The rule, which requires all new federal buildings by 2025 to reduce onsite fossil fuel consumption including natural gas by 90% compared to 2003 levels, is expected to save $8 million a year in federal building costs, the department said.

The moves are the latest in a growing push to slash natural gas use in all U.S. buildings, including commercial and residential, which account for more than a third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions, when heating them is considered, said U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

"We will be setting a gold standard for new construction all across America," Granholm said.

The American Gas Association industry group decried the proposed DOE rule and said shifting buildings to run on more electricity will increase demand for power from plants fueled by natural gas.

"Eliminating natural gas in federal buildings is an impractical, unscientific and expensive idea that will have no environmental benefit," said Karen Harbert, AGA president and chief executive.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio

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