Policy Landscape

Spending Bill Negotiations at Impasse as Deadline Looms; Senate Democrats Re-Elect Leadership Team

Capitol at dusk

Congress reached an impasse on a government spending package this week, leaving lawmakers with limited options before Dec. 16 when the expiration of current funding would cause a partial shutdown. Policymakers may opt to pass a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government at current levels while they attempt to reach an agreement by year-end on a massive “omnibus” package—which could include tax, affordable housing, and other measures important to commercial real estate. (Roll Call, Dec. 8 and Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 2)

Funding Logjam

  • Policymakers are reportedly gridlocked over $26 billion in non-defense, domestic spending that would be part of an estimated $1.7 trillion overall funding bill. Both sides have agreed on $858 billion for defense spending. (PoliticoPro, Dec. 7 and CQ, Dec. 8)

  • With the clock ticking, Democrats may introduce their own omnibus proposal next week with measures designed to attract the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate, along with a full-year CR. (Punchbowl, Dec. 8)

  • If an agreement cannot be reached, Democrats may forego new legislation in favor of a one-year CR that would freeze government funding at current levels and allow certain tax policies to expire. Some House Republicans are urging their colleagues to take another course—wait until early next year when they assume majority control and can exert greater influence over funding negotiations with the Senate’s Democratic majority. (Washington Post, Dec. 8)

Other Policy News

Sens Sinema and Schumer
  • Senate Democrats on Tuesday voted unanimously to re-elect their entire leadership team to another term for the 118th Congress, with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), above right, at the helm.

  • Today, Schumer stated that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), above leftwill keep her committee assignments after she registered as an independent and published an op-ed in the Arizona Republic about why she is leaving the Democratic Party. (The Hill, Dec. 8 and Dec. 9 | Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9)

  • Sinema suggested her decision would not affect the power balance in the Senate because she will not caucus with Republicans and her voting behavior will not change. (Politico, Dec. 9)

Separately, the Treasury Department’s recently released, initial guidance on labor standards for companies to qualify for increased incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will be the focus of two Department of Labor webinars next week. Register for the Wednesday, December 14 or Thursday, December 15 webinars, both scheduled for 1pm EST. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 2)

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Climate and Energy Policy

White House Announces Federal Building Performance Standards

The White House

The White House on Wednesday released a new standard to reduce scope 1 “direct” emissions from fossil fuels combusted to heat and cool federal buildings. (CNBC |UPI | PoliticoPro, Dec. 7)

Federal Building Performance Standard (BPS)

  • The Federal BPS from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) applies to the 300,000 existing buildings owned by the U.S. government. It sets a 2030 goal for each federal agency to eliminate scope 1 emissions in 30% of its facilities. (White House Fact Sheet)

  • The Federal BPS “prioritiz[es] energy efficiency and the elimination of on-site fossil fuel use.” It is a stepping-stone toward the Biden administration’s ultimate goal of “net zero” emissions by 2045 across all federal facilities. (Exec. Order 14057, Dec. 8, 2021)

  • The Federal BPS’s “performance pathway” would achieve the goal for zero scope 1 emissions “through efficient electrification of all equipment and appliances.”

  • The Federal BPS also offers a “prescriptive pathway” for specific replacement of gas-fired furnaces and boilers. This alternate compliance route recognizes that “full decarbonization may not be practicable today” considering a building’s size and climate zone—and is designed to account for the market availability and cost-effectiveness of electrification equipment.

Relevance to Other GHG Standards

Energy.gov map of BPS

  • While the Federal BPS intends to reduce on-site scope 1 emissions, it will likely increase scope 2 emissions from electricity purchased by the federal government to power electric heat pumps, hot water heaters, and similar equipment.

  • Furthermore, the Federal BPS—and its focus to reduce fossil fuels on-site—might set an easier standard compared to a number of emerging BPS mandates at the state and municipal level.

  • Some local BPS laws may effectively require buildings to reduce overall GHG emissions at their source, which depends on whether local power grids provide “clean” electricity from solar, wind, or other renewable energy. EPA data that profiles “fuel mixes” used to generate electricity, however, indicate that coal, gas and other non-renewables account for 80 percent of the fuels that power electric grids nationally.

  • Also, local BPS laws may not offer a “prescriptive” compliance path similar to the Federal BPS that contemplates cost effectiveness in building electrification retrofits.

  • Notably, the Federal BPS sets no requirements for U.S.-owned buildings to reduce their upstream and downstream “scope 3” emissions outside of an owners’ control. (EPA website)

  • Possible measurement and reporting of scope 3 emissions has been a controversial element of a private sector, corporate GHG disclosure rule proposed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that has not yet been finalized. (Roundtable Weekly, June 10)

Other Building Policies  

Department of Energy sign
  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) also on Wednesday proposed a rule that would establish the first-ever emissions standards for new federal construction and major renovations. Like the Federal BPS for existing federal assets, DOE’s proposed rule “aims to accelerate” electrification by phasing out on-site fossil fuel usage for heating and hot water. (DOE news release)

The White House’s announcements touted DOE’s Better Climate Challenge—a voluntary “pledge” that includes Roundtable members as “partners” who have committed to reduce portfolio-wide scopes 1 and 2 emissions by at least 50% within 10 years. The Roundtable is an “ally” supporting DOE’s Challenge. (Roundtable Weekly, March 4)

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Healthy Workplaces

Roundtable Responds to EPA’s Inquiry Regarding  Indoor Air Quality

EPA logoThe Real Estate Roundtable on Dec. 5 responded to a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Request for Information on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) management, which posed questions about a possible new building “label” program. (Roundtable comments and EPA’s Federal Register Notice

Roundtable Comments 

  • A public-private partnership federal recognition program that commends leadership in IAQ design and management could be a key component of a return to healthy workplaces, The Roundtable stated in its comments.

  • The Roundtable urges policymakers and business leaders to push for the safe return of employees to their physical workspaces to benefit productivity and help reinvigorate small businesses in downtown neighborhoods—an essential contributor to urban communities and their tax bases. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 2)

  • Should EPA move forward to propose any criteria for a potential IAQ label, The Roundtable commented that the agency must: 

    • Identify clear statutory authority and adequate federal resources to ensure its long-term viability;

    • Conduct an initial pilot program for testing in actual buildings to reflect real-world experiences of commercial real estate practitioners (including private sector and federal building owners); and

    • Demonstrate support for best practices and procedures that sequentially (I) control emissions and off-gassing from indoor sources, (II) improve ventilation rates, and (III) enhance air filtration and cleaning. (EPA’s IAQ best practices webpage

The Roundtable's Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) has a long, successful track record of collaboration with EPA and the Department of Energy in the development of numerous voluntary recognition programs, which are listed in the comments.

Healthy Return to Office 

Healthy Workplace Coalition logo

Return-to-the-office is a significant industry priority that will be discussed during The Roundtable’s all-member State of the Industry Meeting on January 24-25 in Washington, DC. 

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Roundtable In The News

The Roundtable’s Jeffrey DeBoer Recognized as One of DC’s "Top Lobbyists" for 2022

Real Estate Roundtable President Jeffrey DeBoer & 2022  Roundtable Annual ReportReal Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, is one of the "Top Lobbyists" in Washington, DC for 2022, according to the prominent policy news publication, The Hill. This is the fifth consecutive year that DeBoer has earned the recognition. (The Hill, Dec. 7)

  • The publication noted their list of individual lobbyists is comprised of those who “played a key role in shaping an avalanche of legislation in 2022, including Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act and several bipartisan bills that brought sharply divided lawmakers together.”

  • The Hill also notes the list recognizes “advocates won hard-fought battles to secure some of this year’s most significant bipartisan measures” and “demonstrated a track record of success in the halls of Congress and the administration during a critical year for policy.” (pdf of The Hill’s 2022 Top Lobbyists)

  • The Roundtable’s DeBoer commented, “I am honored to be recognized for my advocacy successes on behalf of the commercial real estate industry. However, I’m smart enough to know that they are not individual successes but are actually successes resulting from the hard work of the entire Roundtable team ... our membership and staff. It is particularly rewarding to be honored by The Hill knowing that, in leading the team, my approach is grounded by a positive, bipartisan foundation built around overall community betterment and advancement.”

DeBoer added, “We will continue to advocate long-term, sustainable public policy relating to taxation, access to housing and capital, job creation and energy efficient buildings that are safe and secure—and I hope that our efforts will continue to be positively recognized.”

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