EPA Says "Do What I Say, Not What I Do" And Moves To The Burbs


Image Credit Google via NRDC Switchboard

In October, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance," that, among other things, said the following:

Ensuring that planning for new Federal facilities or new leases includes consideration of sites that are pedestrian friendly, near existing employment centers, and accessible to public transit, and emphasizes existing central cities and, in rural communities, existing or planned town centers

.

So what is the EPA doing in Kansas City, Kansas where they have 600 employees in a downtown building? They are moving to the 'burbs.
The view from their new window. Image via Kaid Benfield

I could go on about transportation energy efficiency and all of our posts on this kind of issue, but Kaid Benfield at NRDC Switchboard does a much better job:

This decision is horrible in so many ways that it's hard to know where to start. How the hell did EPA administrator Lisa Jackson sign off on this?

Benfield notes that it could triple transportation carbon emissions as just about everyone will be driving those extra twenty miles. Benfield also notes the perverse use of LEED as an excuse:

A second argument advanced in favor of the sprawl site is, ironically, that the former Applebee's building is LEED-certified while the current building, which was built to then-prevailing green standards in 1998 but predates LEED, is not. If that is the real reason, it more than anything else I have come across illustrates the perversity of LEED building standards that largely ignore the environmental consequences of location. Research shows that transportation energy use and emissions of purportedly green buildings, when they are placed in sprawl, wipe out any benefits conferred by the technology of the buildings themselves.

The owner of the current downtown building says that he is willing to go LEED Gold on his operations and maintenance within the year. More at NRDC Switchboard : EPA Region 7: "We were just kidding about that sustainability stuff"

Image credit Abogo

Over on the Original Green, Steve Mouzon joins the Easter Parade and compares the EPA to Judas.

The Environmental Protection Agency has joined the infamous ranks of those who betray what they were sworn to protect.

He focuses on the Gizmo Green aspect of bailing out of town for a so-called sustainable building:

Gizmo Green is the proposition that with better equipment and better materials, we can achieve sustainability. But it simply isn't so because increases in our consumption consistently outstrip industry's ability to increase efficiency. Simply put, if our behavior doesn't change, our machines can't save us. Sustainability isn't something you get by going shopping. It's something you get by thinking (and then acting) differently. So the second closely-related reason is that sustainability isn't something "they" do... it's something we do..... it's high time to begin taking a more holistic view of sustainability that goes far beyond our tools, and focuses on everything else about us as well... including the sprawl we inhabit and the auto-dominated lifestyle it forces upon us.

The New York Times picked up the story, and diverts attention from the EPA, writing that leases for buildings are the responsibility of the General Services Administration, and that the EPA is only the tenant that goes where it is told.

Charlie Cook, a spokesman for GSA, said the decision was purely a matter of economics. When lease negotiations began, the government was not looking for a new location, but it would have been "irresponsible" to take any of the offers made by the owners of the current building, he said.

"We're the stewards of federal tax dollars, and we can't just sign a lease based on what's popular with some," Cook said. "We have to stick to our principles."

Cook also plays the green card, noting that the new building has to be LEED certified Gold for the building and Platinum for the operations and maintenance.

But Kaid Benfield has the last word in the Times:

"What we have called 'green' traditionally has not taken into account all of the environmental elements that are associated with a particular building," he said. "You can get a platinum certification for a building in a corn field -- or in this case, a wheat field."

More on Transportation Intensity and Green Urbanism
Jargon Watch: "Transportation Energy Intensity" of Buildings
The Transportation Energy Intensity of Buildings
EPA Study Finds Where You Live Matters More Than How You Live

Watch Steve Mouzon and Lloyd Alter discuss the Original Green on TreeHugger TV live, Wednesday at 2:30 Eastern

Tags: EPA | Urban Life | Urban Planning