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Green-buildings office may lose 50 percent of budget

Sep. 3, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
One of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings' projects is evaluating green technologies at the Environmental Protection Agency's Denver headquarters. (General Services Administration)

A government office charged with coordinating green building technology and providing technical assistance may see its annual budget cut by 50 percent in 2011.

The Senate Appropriations Committee reported a spending bill to the full Senate on July 29 that would cut the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings' annual budget from $4 million to $2 million. The office was created last year within the General Services Administration.

The office coordinates energy-efficiency projects with the Energy Department, and also sets standards and provides technical assistance for green projects at GSA buildings.

The office set higher standards for both lighting and energy efficiency for the Edith Green/Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland, Ore., which earned a platinum LEED certification. It also is coordinating a demonstration project at the Environmental Protection Agency's regional headquarters in Denver to evaluate the effect of green building technologies and practices, including advanced lighting systems, daylight harvesting, water-efficient fixtures, and a hybrid solar/vegetative roof.

According to a congressional aide familiar with the appropriations process, the cut stemmed from committee members' concerns that the office was slow to spend its budget and that there were better places to use the appropriated funding.

By the end of last month, the office had obligated $2.6 million in funds, according to GSA spokeswoman Sara Merriam.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act authorized creation of the office and recommended a $4 million annual budget from 2008 through 2012 "to remain available until expended."

But the first time the office received funds was through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act passed by Congress in February 2009. The act funded the office for $4 million.

The Senate committee report authorized $2 million and made this funding available for one year. The committee's report would have to pass the full Senate and the House, and be signed by President Obama in order to set the new level of funding.

Obama proposed a $4 million budget for the office in 2011.

Kevin Kampschroer, director of the Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, said in July testimony to Congress that the office "combines authoritative knowledge of federal processes with multidisciplinary expertise in high-performance green buildings to provide leadership within GSA, the federal government, and the broader commercial property market to ensure that our buildings minimize their burden on both the environment and the taxpayer."

He said the office created and coordinated innovative programs that made sure that the government adopted sustainable practices at all levels.

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