Monthly Archives: July 2016

Quarterly Energy and Environmental News

July 2016

News affecting the US energy and environmental areas happens. CCES will keep you up-to-date on important issues quarterly. We may not cover every issue and jurisdiction. Make sure you work with a qualified professional to determine how such news affects your business and career. But we hope this will help keep you up with changing US trends.

Reducing Methane Emissions

The Obama Administration is entering its final months, and there is concern that they have not properly tackled all options concerning reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in response to climate change. While the focus has been on reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, it is understood that methane (CH4) emissions (21 times more potent than CO2) must be reduced, as well. There is a debate on how to do this. Recent technological advances, such as fracking, has encouraged conversion of coal and oil plants to natural gas, effectively reducing CO2 emissions. However, increased usage of natural gas means greater leakage and emissions of CH4 such that GHG emissions are not being cut significantly in total. While the Republican candidates for President have not discussed the issue, different factions of the Democratic Party have different strategies, ranging from a total ban on fracking to supporting fracking under certain conditions, such as minimizing water and CH4 leakage. The platform of the Democratic Party deals with this in compromise form, requesting minimizing CH4 leakage, requiring companies to publicly list the chemicals used in fracking, and banning fracking in communities or states that oppose it.

The Obama administration has pledged to reduce CH4 emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45% below 2012 levels by 2025, and has begun to draft standards for CH4 emissions through the Clean Air Act, although they will likely not become law until the next administration.

US Court of Appeals Delays Hearings on Clean Power Plan

The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit announced that it was delaying oral arguments concerning the Clean Power Plan until September 27 in front of the entire Circuit. The Clean Power Plan would establish federal standards for CO2 emissions from existing power plants. The timing is such that a decision by the full Circuit would probably be made after this November’s elections. Who becomes the new President may itself alter the landscape and breadth of the Clean Power Plan. The losing party to a Court of Appeals decision after Election Day would likely appeal it to the US Supreme Court which could hear arguments and rule by June 2017.

The Obama Administration and the USEPA believe they have the statutory authority to amend the Clean Air Act to include such regulations. Arguments against the Clean Power Plan include whether the USEPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act to set CO2 emission standards that rely on emissions beyond a facility’s control (if other facilities combust high-GHG emitting fuels or use renewables). The Clean Air Act allows the USEPA to only regulate activities at the actual power plant to reduce emissions (e.g., efficiency improvements). The USEPA responded by stating that the Clean Air Act allows it to take “generation-shifting” measures to determine emission reduction targets.

Obama Administration’s Initiative for Solar for Low, Moderate Income Housing

The federal government announced in mid-July the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative, aiming to increase the use of alternative energy by 10-fold in low and moderate income housing. See
The program aims to increase solar use by about 1 GW by 2020, covering about 1 million additional low and moderate income homes.

Key elements of the Initiative:

• New guidance to use Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing;

• A “Community Solar Challenge” to award teams in many communities up to $100,000 in cash or technical assistance, to develop innovative models to increase solar installations and reduce low income communities’ electric bills;

• DOE will provide technical assistance to qualified low income housing groups;

• Solar-related job training for low- and moderate-income people; and

• Over 120 housing authorities, rural electric co-ops, power companies, and others in over 36 states have committed to investing $287 million for over 280 MW of solar energy projects in low- and moderate- income communities.

New NPDES Standards for Discharges from Construction

The USEPA is expected to shortly update its NPDES General Permit for Discharges from Construction Activities (GCP) to go into effect next year. The proposed updates to the GCP are intended to clarify current permit language and contain new requirements that non-stormwater discharges from external building washdown not contain hazardous materials such as PCBs, revise current effluent limits, require cover or other appropriate temporary stabilization for all stock or debris piles unused for 14 or more days, require waste containers to be closed or covered when not in use, and impose requirements on the demolition of structures exceeding 10,000 sq. ft. of floor space, which were built before 1980, to limit PCB-containing building materials entering stormwater.

We hope that this information is useful to you and your firm. Please speak to professionals in the appropriate fields before implementing any strategy or addressing any regulation. CCES can provide the technical advice to help you comply with a new environmental or energy regulation and to help you prosper as you do so. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or by email at And feel free to comment on these articles or suggest topics of interest.

Applying Green Building To Manufacturing Plants

July 2016

The “green” building movement as thought of by LEED standards has progressed well as applied to residences and commercial buildings, such as office buildings. But what about manufacturing? When we think of “factories”, we imagine large “clunky” buildings built for the necessities of 100 or more years ago, when energy and water were cheap and room was needed (and available) for assembly lines. With the decline in manufacturing in the U.S. over the last few decades, few have thought it worthwhile to invest in green features in old manufacturing buildings.

However, the U.S. Green Building Council recently released a short report “LEED in Motion: Industrial Facilities,” there are more than 1,775 LEED-certified industrial facilities, covering nearly 500 million square feet of space, with high future growth likely.

Many former industrial hubs have seen an increase in available, empty industrial buildings that are primed to be refurbished or repurposed. Meeting LEED certification standards by demonstrating excellent energy, water, resources, waste, etc. performance makes such efforts worthwhile. Pittsburgh is considered the leader in this effort, as its municipal government has encouraged repurposing and refurbishing its large stock of former factories through LEED.

Why is the “greening” of factories necessary and beneficial? First of all, the economics of operating a manufacturing plant has changed compared to decades ago. Energy, water, waste management were easily available and cheap; not so anymore. Space is more of a premium, too. Factories have to be more efficient in resource management to meet the new realities of the market. In addition, US industry is competing in global markets where labor costs, which are often much greater then resource costs, are cheaper. As “LEED in Motion: Industrial Facilities” states, U.S. manufacturing buildings must be more efficient when it comes to not only energy, water, and waste, but also labor productivity. LEED buildings of all types result in high-performing buildings where the health of the labor force is enhanced.

The first packaged-goods manufacturer to achieve a LEED Platinum rating is Method Product’s cleaning products factory in Chicago. Method heavily invested in renewable energy and the world’s largest rooftop farm, expected to produce 500 tons of food annually. Method estimated that the plant cost them about $30 million, about 33% higher had it aimed for a lower LEED rating, but that they would make the extra money back quickly in increased productivity, reduced costs, and reduced transportation costs.

CCES can assess your current or prospective industrial facilities and determine whether they are candidates for upgrades to become more “green” and to estimate the necessary investment, payback, and profit of different green strategies. We can assist whether you wish to do a complete green upgrade or want to address one issue at a time. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

The Perfection Trap

“If we’re going to do this project, it’s got to be right!” “There’s a lot riding on this. If it does not come out exactly right, on time, and on budget, then we’re (you’re) in trouble.”

Have you come across expressions like this before? I have, particularly on energy projects. While for other projects, it seems to be OK if it is a little less than perfect in execution or a little late or maybe even a little overbudget. But when it comes to an energy or sustainability project, that all goes out the window. Managers expect major cost savings and they be achieved quickly without any disruptions.

This is a managerial mind-set I have experienced myself with some clients, an obsession with perfection. The demand that a project go perfectly or else we won’t do it is wrong-headed for success and for motivating employees.

Energy and sustainability, like most projects, rely on innovation and adjustment to be successful. There is never a guarantee that a return on investment will hit the mark that was calculated in theory on a spreadsheet. Energy, like most projects, needs flexibility, including an openness for minor failures, and improvement from learning from errors.

I have also come across clients who wonder why we perform analyses of likely success and potential financial gain. Why not just “go to Walmart and buy a few hundred of the darn technology and just install it.” No, that’s not the way a successful project works. Yes, one can overdo pre-project analysis. But every building and company is different and it’s important to plan out the energy upgrade or sustainability study, see how it will likely affect the company’s operation and bottom line, and then design it for the best results, taking data to see if adjustments must be made along the way.

This is the best way to approach an energy or sustainability project and will most likely lead to success for your company. Slow, sure, collect data along the way, and learn from mistakes. With that in mind, it is crucial to communicate the progress of your project, so the managers will know what’s going on, why things may be deviating from original plans, but with the understanding of why this is ultimately beneficial.

“If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”
– Gen. Colin Powell

CCES can help your company organize, design, and develop your sustainability, green, or energy program to maximize financial benefits for your individual operations and buildings. We can help you learn from others and communicate progress effectively. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at