Policy Issues
Energy, Environment, Infrastructure, Immigratrion & Other Policies

Ensuring Sensible Policies in the Areas of Energy, Environment Infrastructure & Other Policies     

2018 Policy Issues Snapshot
ore background on various Energy, Environment, Land Use and Infrastructure policy issues can be found in recent issues of Roundtable Weekly — our weekly policy eNewsletter that can searched by key word or phrase.  

The Roundtable's 2018 National Policy AgendaA Building For the Future, also includes sections on Energy Efficiency and Infrastructure.


  New EPA Labels for High-Performance Tenant Spaces

  Federal Energy Data Gathering:  Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

  Infrastructure, Public-Private Partnerships (P3s)

  Scaffold Law – Tort Reform, Property Owner Liability at Construction Sites

  Joint Employer Standard

✓ EPA's Energy Star:     

  • Roundtable, other national real estate organizations support ENERGY STAR: voluntary federal program, no EPA mandates.
    » Est. in 1990s: Building owners/managers can "label" CRE assets to signal top energy performance for investors, tenants. 
    » 44 billion sq. ft. of U.S. commercial floor space use ENERGY STAR's free, online tool to measure energy, water, waste in buildings, across portfolios.
  •  "Business case" for ENERGY STAR:  Creates jobs, enhances competitiveness, improves energy independence, saves money for U.S. families, businesses on utility bills. 
  • Trump's budget "blueprint" for FY'18 (last March) proposed to de-fund ENERGY STAR. 
  •  Roundtable, CRE advocacy has since preserved ENERGY STAR funding through stop-gap spending bills. 
  • House Energy Committee held hearing, proposing significant reforms to ENERGY STAR program. Proposed changes would largely impact EPA appliance labels.  Roundtable, other real estate groups, weighed-in at House hearing to advocate:
    » Keep status quo for ENERGY STAR buildings, even if appliance-side of EPA's program needs reforms.
    » EPA should continue to manage ENERGY STAR buildings program - but must receive adequate, sustained funding.

✓ New EPA Labels for High-Performance Tenant Spaces

  • Federal funding also affects new EPA Charter Tenant program, to label leased spaces for high-efficiency design and construction. 
  • Charter Tenants a key program from the 2015 "Tenant Star" law, originally envisioned and long-supported by Roundtable. 
  • Significant success in EPA's implementation thus far:
    » Over 70 applicants have sought inaugural "ENERGY STAR for Tenants" label for more than 100 leased-office spaces.
    » Broad geographic diversity across U.S. for spaces seeking EPA's new tenant label.
    »  EPA to formally announce Charter Tenant "winners" in winter 2018.  Recipients of tenant awards already notified informally.
  • Federal appropriations will affect program going forward.  EPA has funding for current Charter Tenant "pilot" phase.  But program's permanence will depend on future funding from Congress.

✓ EPA "Smart Sectors" Program

  • September 2017: EPA Administrator Pruitt launches "Smart Sectors" program to coordinate with industry leaders on energy, environmental regulations. 
  • RER invited to participate in "Construction and Buildings" sector. 
  • November 2017: RER members hosted EPA in NYC, conducted site visits to educate Administrator's staff on efficiency innovations and ENERGY STAR tenant fit-outs 
  • Spring 2018: RER encourages EPA to pursue inter-sector coordination with real estate owners -- and tech companies on high performance tenant fit-outs in offices leases.

✓ "Big Data" for Energy in Buildings: Federal Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS)

  • U.S. Energy Department's data gathering arm laying groundwork for first-ever national survey on commercial tenant energy use (along with whole-building "CBECS" survey).
  • 2018: CRE industry input will be solicited as Energy Dep't develops survey questions to gather building, tenant energy usage data.
  • Also in 2018: Current building ENERGY STAR scores will likely change when most recent, completed CBECS data set (from 2012) is used to update EPA's labels.

✓ Infrastructure, Public-Private Partnerships (P3s)

Roundtable's infrastructure policy:

  • Responsibly increase the "pay at the pump" federal gas tax that funds most U.S. infrastructure - which hasn't been raised since the 1990s - and index it to inflation going forward.
  • Support P3 financing, where public funds can leverage private debt and equity
  • Optimize policies to bring foreign investment capital into U.S. for infrastructure
  • "Marketplace fairness" for states to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases, use those revenues for infrastructure re-building.
  • Streamline project permitting and approval process
  • Couple revenue collected from state/local strategies like tax increment finance (TIF) and special assessment districts (SAD), with federal loans, guarantees under US-DOT's TIFIA program to spur more infrastructure development.
  • Trump Administration continues to promise package of $1 trillion infrastructure investment - after tax reform.  But issue appears to be higher priority for Trump than Congressional Republicans. Democrats, however, have shown some willingness to deal. 
  • Roundtable sends letter to POTUS urging action on infrastructure legislation, outlining policies listed above
  • POTUS emphasized infrastructure in 2018 State of the Union address.
  • Roundtable submits comments to Federal Transit Admin. rulemaking.  Encourages layering state/local "value capture" revenue streams (like TIF districts) with federal TIFIA credit program to bridge gaps in P3 infrastructure investments.

⇒ 03/23/2018      
BUDGET & POLICY LANDSCAPE - March 23, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Congress Passes Omnibus $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill Funding Government Through September; Two-Week Congressional Recess Begins  

⇒ 03/09/2018      
TRADE POLICY - March 9, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
President Trump Authorizes Tariffs on Imported Steel and Aluminum; Exemptions for Canada, Mexico and Potentially Other Countries After Security Reviews  

⇒ 03/02/2018      
TRADE POLICY - March 2, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
President Trump's Plans to Slap Global Tariffs on Imported Steel and Aluminum Spark Concerns Regarding Real Estate and Infrastructure Investment  

ECONOMIC GROWTH - TRAVEL & TOURISM - March 2, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
"Visit U.S. Coalition" Unveils Policy Goals to Encourage Foreign Tourism and Boost Job Growth 

 ⇒ 02/23/2018      
INTERNET SALES TAX - February 23, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Mnuchin: President Supports Sales Tax for Online Purchases; GAO Study Shows States Losing Billions from Tax-Free Sales  

⇒ 02/16/2018     
INFRASTRUCTURE - February 16, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Trump Administration Proposes Framework for Nationwide Infrastructure Improvements  

⇒ 02/09/2018      
ECONOMIC GROWTH - TRAVEL & TOURISM - February 9, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
International Visitor Spending in the U.S. Drops; "Visit U.S." Coalition Aims to Spur Tourism and Economic Growth  

⇒ 02/02/2018      
INFRASTRUCTURE & LABOR POLICY - February 2, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
House Judiciary Committee Passes Infrastructure Expansion Act to Counter Inequities in "Scaffold Law" 

⇒ 02/02/2018      
STATE OF THE UNION, THE ECONOMY & REAL ESTATE - February 2, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Trump's State of the Union Includes Increased Infrastructure Investment Proposal; New Reports Show Debt Ceiling Will Be Reached in March 

⇒ 01/26/2018      
2018 ROUNDTABLE STATE OF THE INDUSTRY MEETING - January 26, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
Roundtable Debuts 2018 Policy Agenda, Engages Policymakers on Key Issues 

✓ Scaffold Law - Tort Reform, Property Owner Liability at Construction Sites

  • NY State "Scaffold Law" has interstate impacts on major infrastructure and construction projects. 
  • Law renders property owners, general contractors "absolutely liable" for workers' height-related injuries from basic construction, renovation, cleaning, painting projects. 
  • Workers' self-inflicted negligence not relevant under Scaffold Law.  In contrast, most states use "comparative negligence" to proportionately reduce court damages where worker partially causes own injuries. 
  • Scaffold Law's absolute injury standard needlessly drives up liability insurance premiums for construction work - to the extent owners, contractors in NYS can obtain such coverage at all. 
  • HR 3808, House bill introduced fall 2018: Height-related workers' injuries at "Federally-assisted" projects must be adjudicated under "comparative negligence" standard governing vast majority of U.S. courts. 
  • January 2018: Roundtable spearheads letter to Congress in support of HR 3808 with other real estate, contracting, insurance groups. 
  •  Scaffold Reform advocacy will include efforts to include HR 3808 w/ any infrastructure package considered in Congress this year.

INFRASTRUCTURE & LABOR POLICY - February 2, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
House Judiciary Committee Passes Infrastructure Expansion Act to Counter Inequities in "Scaffold Law" 

INFRASTRUCTURE & LABOR POLICY - January 19, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
The Roundtable and 17 Real Estate, Insurance and Contracting Organizations Urge Passage of Infrastructure Expansion Act to Counter Inequities in "Scaffold Law"  

INFRASTRUCTURE AND LABOR POLICY - October 27, 2017 - Roundtable Weekly 
U.S. House Bill Would Counter New York "Scaffold Law" and Remove 100% Liability of Property Owners for Fall-Related Injuries at Federally-Assisted Project Sites  

✓ Joint Employer Standard  

  • Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision in Browning-Ferris: "Parent"-level company is liable for the employment, workplace conditions controlled by their independent contractors, franchise operators, and others who hire "indirect" employees.
  • As NLRB decisions can change from one Administration to the next, "Coalition to Save Local Business" continues to push for permanent fix from Congress.

LABOR POLICY - JOINT EMPLOYER - March 2, 2018 - Roundtable Weekly 
NLRB Restores Broad, Obama-Era "Joint Employer" Standard; Industry Coalition Calls for Congress to Pass Unified National Definition 

LABOR POLICY - December 15, 2017 - Roundtable Weekly 
NLRB Reinstates Employer Liability Test to "Direct and Immediate Control" Over Workplace Matters, Overturning Obama-Era "Joint Employer" Standard 

LABOR POLICY - November 10, 2017 - Roundtable Weekly 
House Passes Bill to Overturn NLRB's "Joint Employer" Ruling  


For weekly updates on key policy issues affecting commercial real estate, see our eNewsletter   Roundtable Weekly 

The Roundtable's Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) is led by Chairman Tony Malkin (Empire State Realty Trust) and Joyce Mihalik (Forest City Realty Trust) serving as Vice Chair.  For additional information on sustainability, infrastructure, immigration, and land use issues, please contact Duane Desiderio, Senior Vice President and Counsel at The Real Estate Roundtable or call (202) 639-8400.

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