Advocating for Green Energy Advancements with Patton Boggs’ Joshua Greene
August 26, 2011
JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and we’re so honored to have with us today Josh Greene. He’s a Partner at Patton Boggs. He’s in charge of energy and natural resources. Welcome to Green is Good, Josh Greene. JOSH GREENE: Well, thank you, John. Glad to be here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, you know, Josh, I know you personally. You’re a great friend of mine, and your firm is just an amazing firm in Washington, D.C. with offices around the world. But for our listeners, I want you to share your bio and history before we get going. Share your journey. How did you become a Partner at Patton Boggs, and what was your green journey in energy and natural resources to get to where you are today? JOSH GREENE: Wow. Great question, John. Well, I guess my journey started here in Washington. It’s coming on 20 years now that I’ve been in Washington. I graduated from college and I came here wide-eyed and wanted to do some good work in government and get involved in our nation’s politics. For about seven years, I worked on Capitol Hill. I started out as an intern, like many people do in Washington, and worked for two members from the city of New York, where I’m originally from. During that time, I got my feet wet in terms of environmental and energy regulatory policy, working on a variety of issues. That’s where I really got the bug. After my seven-year stint on the Hill, I took a brief hiatus for law school and also co-founded a business with some family members, doing commercial contracting work, mostly cleaning and renovating and retrofitting buildings in and around the greater Maryland area. Then I got my hands dirty, so to speak, in looking at the practical side, the private market side, of regulatory policy, both energy and in environment. When I graduated from law school, I did keep up some relationships that I had built up at Patton Boggs. There were some Partners here who had visited me while I was a legislative aide on Capitol Hill, and invited me to participate in a summer program, which is not unique to law firms, but that’s typically how they work to bring in new associates. That was back in 2002. I joined the firm, and started practicing in the area of environmental energy law and regulatory policy, and I’ve built up my career around that. That kind of brings us full circle, and that’s partly where I had the good fortune to meet you. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Yeah, and you’re so humble. For Mike and our great listeners out in the United States and around the world, Josh also worked on the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. You also won a big human rights award for outstanding public service in 2004 and you were appointed by the governor of Maryland in 2007 to sit on a board. You are very humble, Josh Greene, and we are honored to have you on Green is Good today. For our listeners out there, to follow a little bit, if you’ve got your iPad like I do, or Mike’s laptop, or you’re in front of your desktop and you’re listening to this show, go to Josh’s firm’s website, www.pattonboggs.com/cleantech to read more about Josh’s and his colleagues’ great work at Patton Boggs. Josh, let’s talk a little bit about your practice now and what’s going on. You sit in Washington, D.C. I’ve had the honor to work with you and be in Washington with you, and you are truly at the corner of Main and Main for so much of what’s going on in energy policy and natural resource policy in the United States and around the world. What’s going on today? What’s your visibility on what’s going on with regards to Congress and the administration, related to all things green? JOSH GREENE: Yeah. We find ourselves, as a nation, and certainly in the political and policy debate in Washington, I would say at a crossroads. It’s interesting. We often tell clients, as well as our regular random conversations with people that we know, we always say, “Elections matter.” When one thinks about it, nearly almost three years ago, we had a new president come to office, President Barack Obama, running on a platform of clean energy transitions for the country, and finally getting that done and bringing more sustainable policies and lessening our dependence on foreign oil, all things that, I should say and for your listeners, there’s no Republican or Democrat that would necessarily disagree with that. It’s all a function of how we get there and at what cost. And then we kind of fast forward to our elections of last fall. There’s been somewhat of a paradigm shift in how these things are viewed. We find ourselves talking more and more about the fiscal condition of the country and debt and deficits, and we need to be a little bit more prudent with the pocketbook of the federal government. Now we find ourselves with that dramatic funding increase that President Obama put forth in terms of green energy and clean energy and sustainability policies. We find ourselves in a situation where we may be seeing some of that roll back a little bit, in terms of funding levels and execution of policy. However, there is a core group of businesses, both Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000, medium-sized, small, and in between, that see the value in transitioning to a clean energy economy and more sustainable policies. The remainder of this year, here in Washington, I think your listeners are maybe sick of hearing it, all this talk about deficits and debt talks, but I think in the end the federal government will continue its policies and the Obama administration will continue its policies in moving us towards a cleaner energy future. It’s just going to take a little bit more advocacy. JOHN SHEGERIAN: With regards to the significance of Obama’s Executive Order 13514, what’s your analysis of that? What does it mean for our listeners out there? JOSH GREENE: Sure. Great question. This executive order, in many ways, and I’ve written about this before, in my estimation is a game changer. It piggybacks of the executive order that then-President George W. Bush executed in 2007. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for this, but he should, which began the pathway for the federal government to become more energy efficient, more sustainable in its acquisitions and its use and purchasing of clean energy, alternative vehicles, fuels, etc. What President Obama did in EO 13514 is take it one step further. When I say one step further, it added to President Bush’s executive order the reduction of greenhouse gases and what we call scope 1, scope 2, scope 3 gases, for the entire federal government. So, not only do federal agencies, and of course the Department of Defense has the largest budget of all of the federal agencies, have to become cleaner and greener. What 13514 has done is say you also have to become more sustainable in your entire value chain, as well as the energy and electricity that you’re sourcing from your local service provider. You should try to make it solar or wind or geothermal, rather than coal and natural gas. When you’re buying federal government goods and services from vendors in the private sector, you’re going to have to analyze those vendors’ supply chains. Are those supply sustainable, greener, lower carbon footprint? When one thinks about this, between the Department of Defense and the General Services Administration, which essentially does a lot of the procurement of goods and services across the entire federal government, between the two agencies, the federal government has a procurement budget of just above a trillion dollars. Think about that. That represents good and services that are purchased by the federal government. The Department of Defense alone in 2009 into 2010, had a $400 billion acquisition budget and $15 billion of that was used to acquire energy. It’s very interesting, and GSA has an interim rule out now regarding the sustainable acquisitions. Again, anybody that’s doing business with the federal government, buying and selling goods and services, is going to have to demonstrate to the GSA what your supply chain, what your value chain looks like. I think this is a game changer because when you have companies like Walmart, amongst others, working with the federal government on these types of initiatives, that’s a game changer because the ripple effects there across Walmart’s supply chain, let alone other supply chains, that’s going to go from the Fortune 500 company through the mid-tier, all the way down to those mom and pop and small businesses across the country. It’s only going to auger to the benefit of our nation’s economy. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so well put. You wrote an amazingly great article called Obama’s Green Legacy: Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, and in it you talk about the specific agencies, GSA, the Department of Defense. Share a little bit some of the wow figures, such as the Department of Defense is the largest user of total energy at the federal government level. Explain how the sustainability stakeholder loop gets closed since it’s making everybody tighten up here. JOSH GREENE: The proposition here, at the end of the day, is in the private sector. Just as we talk about above the line savings and what energy efficiency and sustainability can do to actually save money and drive shareholder value, it’s the same proposition with the federal government, the leadership that President Obama and his team are embarking, as it relates to this executive order. The Department of Defense, as a follow-up to that article, one of the things that the executive order mandated was that each agency had to come back and report to the Office of Management and Budget on where they were on sustainability, where they were on reducing greenhouse gases, and where they were on acquiring cleaner and greener energy. The Department of Defense was the worst offender, which you can probably surmise, given their size and our national energy security problem of relying on imported oil to help fuel the military machine. When one closes the loop on this, when innovators and entrepreneurs, both large, small, etc. can work on more sustainable technologies, fuel procurements, etc. The Department of Defense’s fuel procurement budget last year was $10 billion. A lot of that petroleum is not coming from the United States. We can use our innovation and our entrepreneurs and our small and medium-sized businesses here in the United States to do homegrown fuels that are more sustainable as well and are environmentally friendly, that is just a net win-win for the country and for our national energy security. This is what’s happening, John, more and more across the entire value chain of our nation’s economy. A lot of people, when one thinks about energy, and you and I discusses this as well, it’s taken for granted. Your line of business is taken for granted. What do we do with electronic waste? Well, we just throw it out. We don’t think about it. But there’s an entire value chain surrounding how we can become more sustainable. The DOD has to lead by example, and they have to be out in the front because they’re protecting our freedom, and it’s a national security imperative, whereas the average homeowner can maybe take some liberties here and there. Nevertheless, I do think on this particular executive order, and as I wrote in that article, this is one of the positive legacies I think President Obama is going to have. President Obama is going to have lots of legacies, but in this space, I really do think this is what he and his administration will be remembered by. If he’s fortunate enough to have a second term, I unequivocally say this will be his legacy because after eight years of a trickle down of working through these issues on sustainability, sustainable acquisitions, what we do with our electronic waste, what we do about biofuels, all of that, that’s going to allow our nation to prosper. The people are going to pop up. Companies are going to pop up and work hard and leverage private capital and get us back on that path, leveraging the private sector. That’s what America’s all about, anyway. I think the future is bright. MIKE BRADY: Josh, one of the things that I’ve been researching myself recently, and John and I have talked about this quite often, and it speaks to what you’re talking about, the challenge with the defense department. The United States Air Force have given themselves an even bigger goal, according to what I’ve been able to read, by 2017, of having 50% of their fuel that they use to fuel their planes, everything from recon aircraft to transports to fighters, the entire fleet, 50% of it being alternative or mixed fuels by the year 2017. JOSH GREENE: That’s right. You’re absolutely right. When you think about the Air Force and then of course the Navy component and Navy pilots off aircraft carriers, most of their fuel is sourced to either refineries and operations or forward command centers. A lot of it still has foreign content associated with it, so we have to get it from somewhere. However, if we’re able to produce more of those bio-based fuel, and Virgin Atlantic and Richard Branson is leading on that front, that can be sourced in the United States and then put on tankers and gone out to the fleets. That is in our national energy and our national security interest, rather than in our forward commands that we’re having fuel either trucked in or piped in or barged in from places that don’t like us much. That’s what it’s all about. The Air Force has been very aggressive about that, as has the Navy. The Navy is also being very aggressive because when you think about the Navy, think about this. Think about an aircraft carrier. It’s a floating city. If you’re making that floating city more energy-efficient, more sustainable, and it’s able to source not only its on-ship energy, but other energy resources to it from U.S. domestic sources, again, it’s in our national energy security and in our nation’s security interest. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Great point. Let’s go from the national level now, Josh. What’s the domino effect to what’s happening on a state and local level? JOSH GREENE: It’s always an interesting question in the United States. Folks from Europe and other parts of the world kind of marvel at our system of government and what we do. It’s interesting because the way in which our Republican form of government is set up and under our 10th Amendment, the states and local governments provide venues by which entrepreneurs, as well as working with their local government officials, can do a lot of experimentation on policies that may work better for them than what the Feds could come up with. I think from the city of New York with Mayor Bloomberg all the way to the other side of the country with Mayor Newsom in San Francisco and a lot of other local officials in between, are starting to say we need to address these issues about cleaner air, cleaner water, more sustainable transportation policies, more sustainable living policies, let’s be honest, and some of our more densely populated metropolitan areas, and we’re going to take the bulls by the horn and show leadership. That’s a wonder about the United States, in that that happens every day. More and more local governments are taking sustainability, transportation, living, energy sources, etc. and experimenting and moving aggressively. What that means for the private sector and the private marketplace is that California may be its own entity, and some people would say it is, with its unique marketplace. A lot of these policies are criss-crossing the nation, east, west, north, south. For example, the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Who would think? Chattanooga, Tennessee is one of the 10 greenest cities in the country. No one thinks about Tennessee as being green. Mayors and city officials, county executives, taking the bull by the horns and saying we need to do something about our energy reliability. We need to do something about our water and air. We need to do something about our waste, landfills. We don’t have much more capacity. What are we going to do? At the local level, a lot of times, and we’re seeing this on the ground, are coming up with the solutions. Obviously, where there is a role for the federal government, they may step in on certain air permits and water permits, what have you. But there is so much movement going on at the state and local level. It may come to pass that in certain situations, some of the larger companies that have multiple footprints across many states may say, “You’re doing the right thing, but we need some assistance here.” We see this at Patton Boggs, and we can help all the time in this regard. Let’s work on maybe a floor or a ceiling, whatever one wants to term it, where we can have similar regulations across all of your states, so that we have a little bit more business certainty and we have our ability to plan our budgets, etc. You see a lot of this with air permitting, with transportation policy. A lot of it is tied into federal money. I think there are a lot of local officials who are seeing the paralysis in Washington and saying, “It’s our constituents at the local level that are suffering. We need to do something about it if Washington’s not.” JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so well put. Josh, you are a practicing lawyer, and I want you to explain how you interact with your clients on sustainability. Not only are you a wealth of knowledge with regards to sustainability, but how then do you interact with your clients? What do you learn from them, and how are you able to best advocate for them? JOSH GREENE: Great question, John. In many regards, I can say that the overwhelming majority of my education on these topics have been from my clients and working with great people like you, John. What we do from a legal perspective is make sure that clients understand both the regulatory environment in which they’re working, for instance, companies that have multiple manufacturing facilities in different states, or have a product that is heavily regulated at the federal and/or state level. Typically most things are regulated at the federal level in some regard, as well as those companies that are multinational. That’s probably where we do the most interaction, not that we don’t with our other clients, of course. We do a lot of interaction with our clients in terms of legal compliance, especially those that have manufacturing or other regulated industries in different countries. Quite often, companies that come to the United States to invest, whether it’s manufacturing, services, wholesaling, what have you, they’re used to a different regulatory regime. In Europe, as we see with a lot of our European clients, they are so further ahead on sustainability issues, energy efficiency issues, carbon footprint issues, that they come with the understanding that they want to potentially set up a facility here and say, “What do we have to do in terms of regulatory compliance?” That’s where we help. In addition, it’s the other side as well. If the EPA or the Department of the Interior or the Department of Energy is proffering a new regulation that may be harmful, we interact with the agency and the client. We also have some other clients that I work with in terms of how should we think about sustainability, cleaner energy, and our business planning. We don’t produce anything. We’re a service company, but we see this a lot. For instance, I’ve done a lot of work with companies related to the Dodd Frank Act, the Wall Street Reform Act. There are some provisions in there related to energy, energy commodities, etc. A lot of these clients are asking, “Given some of the new financial rules — reporting, transparency, SEC, all of those things — how should we, Josh, think through, in terms of our business plan and our business model, so we can communicate to our shareholders how we should be thinking about sustainability and how that will impact our business?” Even if we’re not in the business of making a widget, it still will impact us. I think more and more, especially with energy management, this is becoming an issue that crosses the entire economy. Every client, whether you’re in the mortgage service business or you’re in the manufacturing business, you’re probably somewhere where you have commercial space and you need to manage it. You need to manage your energy, and you need to manage your indoor air quality. That is a typical kind of client interaction as well. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Josh, unfortunately we’re wound down to the last half-a-minute or so here. Of course, we’re going to want you to come back and share more of your great story and more stories from the trenches. Do you have any final comments as we sign off for today? JOSH GREENE: I would say that for everybody that’s listening, I think we do have an obligation to be looking at how we’re going to interact in the future, resources, and sustainability. I’ll leave you with one statistic for your listeners. In the next 10 years, there will be 4 billion more people on this planet. The question becomes how do we integrate those people into the ecosystem in a sustainable way that doesn’t negatively impact our quality of life? Just think about that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s great. Josh, you’re going to come back. Please come back and share more at another time. For our listeners out there, please go to Josh’s great website. You can find Josh there and you can hire him for his great legal and sustainability services at www.pattonboggs.com/cleantech. Josh Greene, you are an inspirational sustainability advocate and ambassador, and truly living proof that green is good.