Monthly Archives: February 2017

New Leadership at the USEPA and Its Impacts

Scott Pruitt has been confirmed and is now the Administrator of the USEPA. His history and stated opinions about environmental compliance are different from probably every previous Administrator. What are the implications for us environmental professionals?

During the campaign, Donald Trump spoke robustly about his disdain for environmental regulations, probably because of the costs and delays he had to endure as a real estate developer. He clearly believes in removing barriers to short-term business growth and that complying with environmental regulations is one example. He has also stated a belief in using whatever source of energy is most convenient, cheaper, and home-grown, and not concerned about whether it is cleaner or not. Finally, President Trump has expressed strong skepticism about the science of climate change, although he has moderated his stance more recently. Scott Pruitt appears to mirror these beliefs of the President, and has shown to perform actions to argue against environmental laws to help industry produce more, faster, with less to clean up.

Therefore, we can expect to see an attempt to boost production of US-produced coal, natural gas and oil. While Pruitt may attempt to remove environmental barriers to business and energy growth, there are other factors at play, such as a nation with an oversupply of cheap oil from domestic producers looking for markets and foreign companies needing the revenues. Plus, we already have an excess of natural gas due to fracking. Even if environmental rules are relaxed, coal may well be the source of energy left out because of the large cost to mine and process it and to combust it.

As this is written, it appears to be a certainty that President Trump will issue executive orders to keep older coal plants competitive and to repeal (or never put in place) the Clean Power Plan, meant to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Clean Power Plan was written and signed into law by President Obama as the US’s response to the Paris Climate Conference to reduce GHG emissions significantly.

Administrator Pruitt has written that he believes that it should be more the states and less the federal USEPA that make most environmental decisions as they are closer to the impacted populations than a Washington bureaucracy. The problem with this is that pollutants know no borders and can drift and impact the health of people in other states.

Ultimately, President Trump and Administrator Pruitt value business growth and the American jobs that will come from them more than cleaner air, a more stable climate, etc. They believe that this is a zero-sum game and that you cannot have good business growth while respecting the environment. This despite the calls of hundreds of major American companies to retain many current federal environmental rules and of a growing number of Republicans to introduce a carbon tax with the proceeds returned to the public to reduce GHG emissions. Even major oil industries, which are big in Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma, have put out statements in favor of a carbon tax to replace the patchwork of international climate change rules. They well may favor this, too, because many also produce and sell natural gas and many are investing in renewable energy.

Another concern for all of us in the industry is the research and development function of the USEPA. There is talk that Administrator Pruitt will end or greatly reduce the research funding that the USEPA provides, research into alternative ways to treat contaminated air, soil, etc. and cleaner energy, not to mention the communication of such advances. All to reduce the budget deficit. Some Republicans have said that it is not right to “bet” public money on certain technologies. On the other hand, that little upfront funding has resulted in breakthrough technologies that are cheaper than older ones. There is a long history of federal funding of new technologies, such as through NASA. It is almost certain that Administrator Pruitt will cut some R&D; how much is the question. Might there be enough private money to continue such research, such as sponsored by Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and others?

Perhaps the biggest concern about the new administration of the nation and energy and environmental policy is whether it will be taken over and impacted by idealogues or whether some practicality and stability will remain. There has been talk about eliminating an agency; the Dept of Energy is now being headed by Rick Perry, someone who called for its elimination a short time ago. It is not likely to happen because Energy oversees nuclear weapons and the public would not allow scenes that are in the news recently of people in China, India, Poland, and other countries having to walk around with masks on during routine walks and travel. It is likely that the new administration will cut down on regulations and their enforcement, but keep enough on the books to save companies compliance fees, but not cause a catastrophic deterioration of quality of life. Of course, if they miscalculate and an accident happens, the tide can turn. Also, it is certainly important and proven that being energy efficient and conserving the environment makes good economic sense to all businesses.

It is unlikely that even repealing many existing rules and paring back the operations of the agencies will impact us in the long-term. Energy and environmental issues will not go away; neither will ignoring climate change. In fact, more private businesses – in a competitive field – understand good environmental policy is good business. And we professionals will be needed to implement the best science to move forward.

CCES has the experts to keep you abreast of changes in environmental and energy rules and their impacts to your operations. We can perform the technical assessments for you to determine compliance and recommend appropriate, cost-effective technical strategies. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

How Many Engineers Does It Takes to Change a Lightbulb?

Kelly Blount
Mintek Corporation

The question is silly, yes, but it could help determine if your facility spends too many labor hours on an asset that doesn’t need such attention, perenially saving you costs.

Lighting plays a crucial rule in any organization. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the percentage of electricity usage due to lighting rose from 38% of total electricity draw in 1979 to 55% in 2003, more than that for space heating, cooling, ventilation, office equipment, and computers combined.

Some facility owners take for granted that LED lighting saves cost over fluorescents or incandescent lighting for their organizations. The question then becomes: what other benefits are there and how much could you save in labor costs by switching to LEDs?
LED lighting can reduce electric costs in your facility by 20% to 50% or more depending on which current light sources are being replaced.
The life of a LED replacement lamp or module in dedicated fixtures is much longer than incandescent, halogen, or T12 or T8 fluorescent tubes. Therefore, they don’t require replacing as often as conventional light bulbs.

The average lifespan of one LED bulb is about 50,000 hours where a conventional incandescent bulb lasts about 1,000 hours. So, you will change a conventional bulb 50-labor consuming times before you change an LED once.

There are a few variables that can affect labor savings when using LEDs. Facility managers should consider the distance maintenance personnel must travel to retrieve the bulb, transportation method, height/accessibility of the bulb, and other factors contributing to labor hours. Assuming an average bulb-changing time of 15 minutes, an average labor cost of $12/hour, replacing one bulb will cost- $3.00
But, during the lifetime of a single LED, you will have changed the incandescent bulb in the same fixture 50 times which brings the total labor changing cost to $3.00 for 1 LED vs. $150 for incandescents. And this is the cost to replace just 1 bulb. Assume your facility uses 200 bulbs, total replacement labor cost for the LEDs would be $600 vs $30,000 (200 x $150) for conventional bulbs!

Facilities can also save on ballast installation for fluorescent tubes; there is a labor cost associated with the installation of replacement ballasts which is avoided when upgrading to LEDs. Ballasts for fluorescent bulbs adds additional electricity use, too.

Maintenance expenses in the lighting world manifest themselves in three primary ways:
1. Cost of replacement lamps and fixtures
2. Cost of labor to replace said lamps or damaged fixtures
3. Warranty protection and duration
Therefore, in many situations, the substantial maintenance savings can nearly double overall project savings. LED is smart business when it comes to return on investment.

LEDs, like any other asset, are also best paired with an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software in a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). This allows technicians to keep records of all maintenance done on the bulbs to show proper cost savings and retrieve asset history, demonstrating that LEDs are the smart move.
Hospitality Equipped With LEDs

The hospitality industry is just one of many industries/businesses that could save on labor and maintenance cost by switching to LEDs. According to, “a hotel in Las Vegas reportedly replaced inefficient metal halide lights on the building’s facade with LED lighting; this move saved the facility about $41,000/annually.”

In the same article, there was a casino in Wisconsin that was expected to save “more than $221,000 in electric costs the first year the building’s new LED lights are in use, and $120,000 in maintenance costs over the next six years.”

Switching to LED bulbs give facilities more time to focus on other labor costs, maintenance situations, asset management, and less time focusing on an asset that can basically take care of itself and save you money.
Wouldn’t you want more options like that for your facility?

Mintek is a turn-key solutions developer for the telecommunications, lodging, and public utilities industries. Mintek’s EAM/CMMS software, Transcendent, provides access to customer, employee, and asset information beyond the traditional office. We allow facility managers to “run their business from their phone.” Our premise is that our technology must provide a rapid verifiable return on the investment.

Mintek Mobile Data Solutions
Contact: Kelly Blount
Phone #: 800-789-7226

Green Buildings and Perceived Risk

“Green” or “Smart” building is becoming all the rage as developers, owners, building managers, and tenants all see the short- and long-term financial benefits of buildings with greater efficiencies, reduced environmental impacts, and improved quality of life. However, the means to achieve these goals often include purchasing, installing, training in, and operating new or different technologies. This involves complications and risks, particularly in the implementation of smart technologies.

Whether it is getting more points in LEED or wanting to maximize benefits, implementing high-tech equipment or performing more comprehensive commissioning means all of those responsible need to work a little harder to ensure that the strategies work and are implemented properly. Few people really want to work harder than they have to and it is a part of many business cultures to build, “flip” the property, and maximize short-term profit. Therefore, while intentions are good, many factors work against the true implementation of green upgrades in a building in the real world. This can be overcome and risk minimized with good preparation and a little education.

One issue with a “green” upgrade is cost overruns and delays in completing the upgrade. Added costs take away from the long-term savings. Having to delay the scheduled occupancy by tenants makes for unhappy customers, something no business wants to endure. Therefore, there is a temptation to “cut corners” and change away from some “green” upgrades designed into the project. Contractors (who also want to complete a project quickly to get paid quicker) have been known to approach building owners to lobby to squelch some “green” upgrades, such as by substituting less “green” material that the contractor can install quicker, luring the owner by saying it will save upfront cost and allow quicker occupancy. Therefore, it is important that the “green” consultant not just design a “green” building, but be involved in the construction management to ensure all of the upgrades are properly implemented and to provide professional advice countering arguments against “green” upgrades by a contractor. Also, some want to save a little upfront by reducing or eliminating training and proper O&M, which are necessary to operate the high-tech equipment properly. The owner should understand that these efforts will save money and avoid lots of headaches later.

In fact, owners should be made to understand the benefits of these approaches. A BMS (building management system) and BIM (building information modeling) can provide a deep understanding of the functional characteristics of building systems (and their cost savings) and provide a maintenance plan to manage buildings more effectively.

Another issue is that by implementing new “smart” technologies the owner is introducing new risks of performance failure and difficulty to fix functionality issues. The reality is that newer technologies tend to be built to last longer and need fewer future upgrades, reducing delays and O&M in the long-term. If there is a concern that a critical functional failure may result in loss of rental revenue, then insurance specific for “green” technology can be obtained.

CCES can help you develop approaches, design and implement a “green” upgrade of your building in order to modernize, reduce costs, and attract more tenants in a professional, non-intrusive way. We can help you implement new technologies to minimize future risk. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at

Despite New Administration, Regional, State Climate Change Rules Progress

While the Trump Administration has stated its skepticism about climate change and actions to combat it, a number of states are planning to continue existing programs to address climate change issues and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). These programs also help in encouraging energy conservation and reducing the need for infrastructure upgrades, resulting in greater reliability of the electric grid and significant cost savings for businesses and consumers.

On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, Jan. 20, 2017, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released a draft Scoping Plan to reduce state GHGs. Under the state’s climate change law, Assembly Bill (AB) 32, CARB is required to produce a scoping plan every 5 years. The proposed plan may result in changes to the state’s GHG emission rules and cap and trade program in order to meet California’s enacted goals to reduce GHGs by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030. The proposed plan would extend the state’s cap-and-trade program out to 2030. CARB auctions off remaining emission allowances to sources of GHG emissions as the cap declines to the long-term reduction goal. The proposed plan would also require oil refineries to reduce their GHG emissions by 20%. CARB plans to issue a final Scoping Plan by the spring of this year.

The proposed plan makes no change to the state’s current Renewable Portfolio Standard of 50% of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. It adds a goal of reducing methane and hydrofluorocarbon emissions by 40% from 2013 levels by 2030.

CARB’s grand 40% GHG emission reduction goal was planned to be met mainly by the cap and trade program with enactment of some mandatory GHG emission reductions by certain industries. However, because there is litigation against the program (that the state does not have the legal authority to manage a mandatory cap and trade program) the proposed scoping document looks into alternative strategies for CARB to pursue, including additional industry-specific GHG emission reduction rules, a carbon tax, or a “cap and tax” system, which would consist of a more flexible cap and trade system together with a carbon tax for each ton of GHG emitted.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) composed of 9 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states’ cap and trade program for utilities continues to progress well. The 2016 RGGI adjusted cap was 64.6 million short tons, decreasing 2.5% each year until 2020. The average price of CO2 allowances at the latest auction was about $3.55/ton. An estimated $4 billion in funds over the length of the program has been returned to the 9 states to implement energy efficiency programs.

While these are rules pertaining directly to climate change, there are myriad more rules that many states, cities, etc. are enacting and enforcing that will result in reducing GHG emissions. These include many energy benchmarking and conservation rules. New ones appear to be coming up “every day”. (For example, St. Louis just finalized an energy benchmarking rule.)

CCES has the experts to help you assess your GHG emissions and help you reduce it to maximize your financial benefits whether you are in a GHG program or not. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at