Federal Times Blogs

Sound off on carbon footprint accounting

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My cover story in this week’s Federal Times details the federal government’s new goal to cut indirect greenhouse gas emissions by 13 percent during the next decade. The bulk of the story explains the impact on federal workers — more telecommuting, fewer business trips out of state, increased recycling and energy conservation efforts.

But as I mention in the article, this is just part of a much larger undertaking to measure and shrink the government’s entire carbon footprint, including the energy used in federal facilities and vehicles.

Under an October executive order from President Obama, all agencies must undertake their first-ever comprehensive accounting of greenhouse gas emissions and report their carbon footprints by Jan. 31.

The White House Council on Environmental Quality earlier this month issued a roadmap for agencies to follow in conducting this inventory. The roadmap is divided into two parts: an overall guidance document, and a more detailed technical support document.

CEQ will accept public comments on the two documents through Sept. 1.

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Energy Department embraces Web 2.0

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The Energy Department today expanded its digital outreach efforts by launching a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

The department already has a You Tube channel and a Flickr page, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu has more than 13,400 fans on his own Facebook page.

Expanding its social networking efforts is part of a larger attempt to increase transparency, make the department more accessible to average Americans and better engage with citizens, Chu wrote in the inaugural blog post.

Our goal is to use the Energy Blog and our other social media outlets to show you who we are, what we do, and why it matters to you, while allowing you to connect with us in new and creative ways.

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Overhauled MMS slaps $5.2 million fine on BP

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The revamped Minerals Management Service is wasting no time showing the oil and natural gas industry that a new day has dawned.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement — created last month in the wake of April’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — assessed a $5.2 million civil penalty on BP America for submitting “false, inaccurate and misleading reports” about energy production on Southern Ute Indian Tribal lands in southwestern Colorado, bureau director Michael Bromwich said today.

BP reported incorrect royalty rates and prices to the department and also attributed oil and gas production to the wrong leases, according to an Interior news release. The penalty is not related to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The agency’s investigation preceded creation of the new bureau in May, Bromwich said this morning at a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee. Still, Bromwich said the fine is indicative of the type of hard line the bureau intends to take against companies that try to cheat the government out of money it’s entitled to receive.

It does reflect a seriousness of purpose and an intent to be aggressive in pursuing a company’s violations of royalties and other issues.

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Interior’s website goes back in time

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Visitors to www.interior.gov might feel like they’ve entered a time warp. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill never occurred, the Minerals Management Service remains intact and the lead story on the home page is about Interior Secretary Ken Salazar commending employees for all their hard work…in 2009.

So who set back the clock?

It looks like Interior failed to link together the various iterations of its Web address. Visitors who type in www.doi.gov will get the current website, which was overhauled at the beginning of the year. But visitors who type in www.interior.gov will see a world that appears to have ended shortly after the calendar turned to 2010.

Clicking on a few of the tabs, such as “DOI Home” and “Bureaus and Offices” and will take visitors to the updated site. Yet many other links are broken. And some — such as the news tab — continue to function as if the site is current, even though the most recent news article was posted Dec. 22.

We here at Fedline hope Interior resolves the issue soon. Of course, things could be worse. It’s not like Interior’s website has been shut down or anything.

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Federal building evacuation a precautionary e(gg)xit

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The 31-story Peachtree Summit Federal Building in downtown Atlanta was evacuated yesterday after mailroom workers flagged a suspicious package that turned out to be a decorative egg.

Federal Protection Service authorities ordered the evacuation just before noon Tuesday after a routine X-ray spotted what appeared at first to be a grenade inside the package. The suspicious item later turned out to be a Fabergé-like egg.

About 1,900 federal employees from the IRS, Social Security Administration and other agencies work at the building, which also contains a daycare center.  Employees were allowed to return to the building about an hour and a half after the evacuation.

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GSA picks chief greening officer

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The General Services Administration has tapped an industry expert to serve in the newly created career position of chief greening officer.

Eleni Reed, director of sustainability strategies at property management firm Cushman and Wakefield, will oversee green building programs and strategies across GSA’s inventory of 9,600 owned and leased facilities, the agency announced Tuesday.

While at Cushman and Wakefield, Reed led the effort to enhance the environmental performance of the firm’s portfolio of U.S.-managed properties. She played a key role in develping a memorandum of understanding between the firm and the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at enhancing energy efficiency, cutting water use and waste, and reducing the carbon footprint of the firm’s U.S.-managed properties, GSA said.

Reed will report directly to Bob Peck, commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service. Peck said she will be instrumental in helping  GSA carry out the Obama administration’s green government mandates and GSA Administrator Martha Johnson’s own pledge to reduce GSA’s carbon footprint to zero.

Her unparalleled work in sustainability and green buildings will help drive GSA’s efforts to be a green proving ground and a market-maker for state-of-the art and emerging technologies.

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USDA sustainability chief targets data centers

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Agencies’ plans for meeting the green government mandates outlined in President Obama’s October executive order aren’t due until June 2, but the Agriculture Department’s chief sustainability officer already has identified one of her top priorities: cutting energy consumption in data centers.

Robin Heard, a lifelong conservationist who joined Agriculture in 1976, said she had no idea how much energy is consumed by data centers until she took on her new role as the department’s deputy assistant secretary for administration about a year ago.

Speaking Tuesday on the opening day of the GSA Expo in Orlando, Heard said she wants to consolidate the department’s data centers and reduce duplication. Agriculture’s computer servers are operating at between 10 percent and 20 percent of their total capacity, according to a January 2009 strategic plan from Agriculture’s chief information officer.

Heard said she’s already getting pushback to the consolidation plan from employees worried that they’ll lose their computing power. But she seemed unfazed by the resistance, recalling a recent conversation with a consultant who had covertly taken offline one of his company’s huge data centers without anyone noticing.

I may start sneaking around to data centers and start unplugging things. I might get arrested.

So if you see Robin Heard visiting your facility anytime soon, you might want to backup whatever work you’re doing on the computer … just in case.

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Former U.S. special counsel charged with contempt

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Scott Bloch, who led the Office of Special Counsel during the Bush administration, was charged with criminal contempt of Congress on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Bloch was forced out of office  in October 2008 after a tumultuous term that culminated in FBI agents raiding his office and home. They were searching for evidence that he obstructed justice during a federal investigation into whether he retaliated against employees who disagreed with how he managed the agency, which is charged with protecting federal whistleblowers and other employees from retaliation.

Bloch was widely suspected of having his computer wiped clean of files that may have supported the claims of retaliation leveled against him. Bloch insisted he had his computer scrubbed because it was infected with a virus.

Bloch “unlawfully and willfully withheld pertinent information from the committee” about the erasure during an interview with federal investigators in March 2008, according to a criminal information filing by prosecutors in U.S. District Court, Reuters said. Prosecutors charged Bloch with criminal contempt of Congress.

Such criminal information filings are typically used when a defendant plans a plea agreement with prosecutors, resulting in a guilty plea, Reuters reported. Bloch’s lawyer, William Sullivan, declined to say whether his client would plead guilty but said he was glad the five-year investigation was over for his client.

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Contest results in: USA.GOV Rocks!

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A couple months ago, I told you about a contest to find the most entertaining and creative video extolling the government’s online information portal, www.usa.gov.

Well, the results are in, and the winning entry might have you wondering if punk rockers Green Day have hung up their “American Idiot” creed for a pro-government bent.

No, Green Day hasn’t sold out. But the rocking tune from contest winner Peter Sullivan, father of two from Nashville, Tenn., proves that it’s possible to write a song about looking up government information online that might actually appeal to the cool kids.

Sullivan won $2,500 from the General Services Administration for his efforts, and no doubt is the talk of the town this morning. The full video is after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Breaking: FPS continues to face widespread problems

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Federal Protective Service contract guards failed to detect guns, knives and other prohibited items brought into federal agencies more than half of the time during covert tests by the agency, the Government Accountability Office reveals in a new report.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate  Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the new report shows FPS continues to face widespread problems with its contractor workforce.

While it has taken some steps forward in recent months, the Federal Protective Service continues to be an agency in crisis.

As I blogged earlier, the House Homeland Security Committee, which requested the GAO report jointly with the Senate committee, will hold a hearing tomorrow morning on FPS and its increasing reliance on contract guards.

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