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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

NACUBO Advocates for Campus Energy and Sustainability in Light of Proposed Budget Cuts

June 12, 2017

President Donald Trump’s budget recommendations for the FY17 and FY18 fiscal years have called for a number of dramatic cuts in the energy policy area, both in federal regulation and in the number of tax credits available to promote sustainability and environmentally friendly buildings.

In light of these possible changes, NACUBO is advocating for a federal budget that enables colleges and universities to build in ways that are both fiscally wise and environmentally sound, primarily on the issues of renewing and expanding the 179D tax credit and maintaining funding for the ENERGY STAR® program.

The Section 179D tax credit, the Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Tax Deduction, was originally enacted in 2005 with the goal of encouraging energy conservation within governmental entities, including public colleges and universities, by tying the value of the deduction to energy savings generated by a building when it was built or improved upon in an energy-efficient way. Multiple public colleges and universities made use of this credit and were able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in both initial building costs and in ongoing operational savings.

Unfortunately, the credit expired on December 31, 2016. Throughout its existence, private nonprofit entities were not allowed to participate, despite the fact that such expansion would have encouraged private colleges and universities, nonprofit hospitals, Native American tribes, and other such organizations with public-serving missions to build in energy-efficient ways. A May 2017 Study of Proposals to Enhance and Extend Section 179D found that not only would the extension of this credit and an expansion of it to all nonprofit organizations encourage environmentally conscious building, it would also create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in the U.S. economy. NACUBO has been working with a coalition of public and private entities, both for-profit and nonprofit, to engage Congress on this issue and encourage policymakers to renew and expand the credit.      

Also at risk in the FY18 budget is the ENERGY STAR® program. Trump’s proposed FY18 budget has recommended a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would result in ENERGY STAR’s® elimination. ENERGY STAR® was founded by the EPA in 1992 and created an independent third party that could evaluate both products and buildings for energy efficiency, offering ENERGY STAR® certification to those that yielded the best results. Colleges and universities of all types utilize these certifications as a reliable and cost-efficient way to evaluate products during the procurement process for energy efficiency that will result in operational savings.

Without the availability of ENERGY STAR® certification, campuses will be forced to either devote additional staff time to evaluating new products or simply risk buying products that may not be the most efficient or cost-effective on the market. NACUBO Director of Facilities Management and Environmental Policy Sally Grans Korsh outlined the importance of ENERGY STAR® to colleges and universities in a May blog post published by the Alliance to Save Energy.

NACUBO has additional resources and talking points on 179D and ENERGY STAR® available on its website


Megan Schneider
Assistant Director, Federal Affairs

Sally Grans Korsh
Director, Facilities Management and Environmental Policy