Policy Landscape

House Vote on Stopgap Funding Bill Expected Next Week; White House Signals Possible Compromise on Pandemic Relief Package

Capitol Dome Stormy weather

Congressional policymakers struggled today to finalize a bipartisan spending bill to fund the government past September 30 and avoid a shutdown.  House and Senate lawmakers disagree on when the temporary funding would expire – Republicans want the stopgap to end on Dec. 18 while Democrats are pushing for Feb. 26.  (RollCall, Sept. 14 and Politico, Sept. 18)

  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated on September 15 that a vote on the continuing resolution (CR) would be held sometime next week.  He added the CR will include language to extend the authorization for surface transportation and the National Flood Insurance Program.  “I am going to bring it to the floor early next week and hope that the Senate passes it either later next week or the first part of the following week,” Hoyer said. (BGov, Sept. 18)

COVID-19 Package Negotiations

Congressional leaders remained at an impasse this week on another coronavirus stimulus package, although the Trump Administration signaled compromise is possible.  Negotiations between Democrats and White House officials stalled in August.  (Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 4)

  • GOP lawmakers initially proposed a $1 trillion coronavirus stimulus proposal in July.  Last week, Senate Republicans attempted to advance a “skinny” COVID-19 aid bill for approximately $500 billion less that was blocked by Democrats. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 11).

  • Democrats are currently advocating a package of at least $2.2 trillion following passage of the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act by the House of Representatives in May.  (Axios, Sept. 10)

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Tuesday that the House would remain in session until an agreement is reached and Hoyer clarified that lawmakers would be on call to return to the Capitol on short notice in the event a deal is reached. (BGov, Sept. 15)

  • After a compromise $1.5 trillion pandemic aid proposal from the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus was rejected on Tuesday by congressional Democrats and Republicans, the White House signaled the following day it was open to further negotiations.  (New York Times, Sept 15 and Vox, Sept. 16)

  • President Trump tweeted on Sept 16, “Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).”  White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows added there was support for more aid to state and local governments and that the Administration would be willing to consider a $1.5 trillion package.  (CNBC, Sept 16.
Schumer and Pelosi joint statement
  • Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a joint statement after Trump’s tweet, “We look forward to hearing from the President’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation.”

  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier this month that the next stimulus bill could be closer to $1.5 trillion.  Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, said yesterday in response to a question about a $1.5 trillion package: “I would say that’s in the range of plausibility.”  (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 18)

  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) yesterday told Bloomberg TV,  “The White House has been making some statements here recently that would never get hardly any Republicans in the United States Senate.  So this used to be the White House versus Pelosi up until about now.  Now the president’s coming in and saying ‘we can maybe go to $1.5 trillion.’ He better be careful of that because I don’t think that bill could get through the United States Senate.”

  • Today, Pelosi told Bloomberg Television that Democrats remain committed to a $2.2 trillion relief package but indicated they may include aid for “airlines, transportation in other forms, restaurants, retail, issues like that” in a relief  package.  (Transcript of Pelosi Interview on Bloomberg's Balance of Power with David Westin, Sept. 18)

The need for policymakers to produce a pandemic aid package before the November elections will be a focus of discussions during The Roundtable’s Fall Meeting on Sept. 22.  Confirmed speakers include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Financial Services Committee Member Steve Stivers (R-OH).

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Energy Policy

EPA Launching “ENERGY STAR Tenant Space” Process on October 13; CBECS Requests Stakeholder Feedback; House May Vote on Building Codes Bill Next Week

Energy Start Tenant Space Charter Tenant Award

Recognition for office tenants who collaborate with their landlords on design and construction of high performance leased spaces will be the focus of the voluntary ENERGY STAR Tenant Space program, scheduled to launch on October 13. 

  • The launch marks the second occasion that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will certify energy efficient office suites, following inaugural awards granted to “charter tenants” in 2018 and legislative authorization for the program from the so-called “Tenant Star” law passed by Congress in 2015. (Commercial Property Executive, May 4, 2015).
  • EPA’s application process, opening October 13, will require office tenants seeking certification to estimate their suites’ energy use, separately meter their spaces, use efficient office equipment, and share energy usage data with their landlords.  See EPA’s “How to Prepare for Tenant Space Recognition” guide.

  • EPA will also offer access to a new tool for estimating lighting energy usage intensity within the ENERGY STAR “Portfolio Manager” platform. Use of this new lighting assessment function will be a prerequisite for Tenant Space awards.  EPA has plans for on-line demonstrations in the coming weeks.

  • The ENERGY STAR label impacts nearly 35,000 buildings and plants nationwide, representing more than 5 billion square feet of commercial space. (ENERGY STAR Facts and Stats)   

Real Estate Stakeholders Requested to Provide Input on CBECS Process

EIA logo

  • The Roundtable requests that our members respond to a short questionnaire (6 questions) currently on the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) website.

  • An ENERGY STAR “whole building” score (registered on a scale of 1 to 100) is generally based on data from the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), conducted periodically by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).  EIA speakers have provided The Roundtable with information on CBECS data and its impact on ENERGY STAR scores for years.

  • The Roundtable estimates that EPA will next update its ENERGY STAR building scoring methods sometime around 2023, based on CBECS data collected in 2018-2019.  However, that data is pre-COVID.  It does not reflect the likely changes that have taken place in building occupancy and energy use since the pandemic struck in 2020.

  • Answers to the current CBECS questionnaire may have a significant impact in EIA’s data collection efforts regarding the U.S. buildings.  It is crucial that EIA capture data from all types and sizes of buildings – such as larger buildings over 500K square feet that have historically been under-represented in past surveys.

  • RER members responding to the CBECS questionnaire should also explain that EIA’s data collection should account for possible changes in building occupancy, energy consumption, ventilation protocols, and HVAC equipment since the COVID-19 pandemic started.  

House May Vote on Energy Bill Next Week

U.S. Capitol

Issues regarding CBECS data are also part of legislation reintroduced by House Democrats on September 15, The Clean Economy and Jobs Innovation Act (H.R. 4447).  The omnibus bill includes sections on building energy codes, grant programs for underserved communities and green infrastructure.  The bill may come to a vote in the House next week.

  • The bill includes a section, strongly supported by The Roundtable, which would direct EPA and EIA to enter into an “information sharing agreement.”  Such an agreement would direct the agencies to publicly and systematically address the relationship between CBECS data and ENERGY STAR buildings scores, as discussed above.

  • The bill also includes provisions, long-supported by The Roundtable, that would bring greater transparency to the process by which the U.S. Department of Energy provides federal recommendations to develop building energy codes that state and local governments may ultimately adopt. (Roundtable Weekly, June 19, 2019)

  • One of the major goals of the comprehensive, nearly 900-page legislative package is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050.  (BGov, Sept. 16)

In the Senate, Energy and Natural Resources Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) is working to reintroduce energy reform legislation, but has once again run into delays due to long-standing objections over housing affordability issues.  (E&E News, Sept 17)

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