White House Council Environmental Quality Chair Visits Pittsburgh

November 23, 2011

Last weekend representatives from evolveEA met with Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Ms. Sutley is principal environmental policy advisor to the President and was in Pittsburgh to learn about the successes and challenges facing the state of green building in our region. We described Pittsburgh’s role as an early green building leader and challenges discussed ranged from combined sewer overflow to incentives for renewable energy.

We learned that the Obama Administration has repeatedly tried to get all G-8 and G-20 nations to eliminate their own fossil fuel subsidies to no avail. The Federal Government has begun awarding energy service contracts, which reward efficiency over consumption. The Department of Defense has been providing leadership on energy and emissions; most of the logistics chain in Afganistan, for instance, is related to the transfer of energy. DOE Secretary Chu is performing long term planning in his quadrennial review of the DOE. Clean air was discussed, as the EPA is implementing mercury standards for power plants and related air quality, as the the average plant in the US is 43 years old.
Efficiency programs on the residential and commercial side were described, with programs such as Recovery to Retrofit, Energy Star, Better Buildings Initiative, Sunshine Initiative, Smart Communities and Executive Order 13514. Research for clean energy, renewable energy and smart communities are being worked on by DOT, HUD and DOE.  Fuel economy standards have been developed and adopted with the cooperation of the auto makers. Combined sewer overflow in Southwest PA will be a $5-10B problem, but the EPA has not been supporting green infrastructure as a sole solution; Milwaukee exists as a successful case study.
The meeting was hosted by the Green Building Alliance in Pittsburgh. Other attendees included Davitt Woodwell (Pennsylvania Environmental Council), Bill Bates (Chair of the Green Building Alliance), Malik Bankston (Kingsley Center), Marijke Hecht (Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy), Ashton Giles (City of Pittsburgh) and Joy Braunstein (Rachel Carson Homestead).

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