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Obama urges federal workers to commute less

By Ed O'Keefe

President Obama wants federal workers to take a bike, bus or subway to work more often and is ordering agencies to make their offices safer places to work.

Two White House memos issued this week aim to reduce the federal government’s environmental footprint and cut the number of workers compensation claims made by federal employees.

Obama signed orders on Tuesday requiring the government to cut its carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from indirect sources, including employee commutes and travel, by 13 percent in 2020.

The federal government owns 600,000 vehicles, almost 500,000 buildings and paid $24.5 billion in 2008 on utility and fuel bills in fiscal year 2008, making it the nation’s largest energy consumer.

“That energy goes towards lighting and heating government buildings, fueling vehicles and powering federal projects across the country and around the world,” Obama said in his memo. “The government has a responsibility to use that energy wisely, to reduce consumption, improve efficiency, use renewable energy, like wind and solar, and cut costs.”

The government also plans to cut indirect emissions by controlling its heating and cooling systems and by promoting recycling programs, officials said, and agencies will locate future office space closer to public transit systems. Tuesday’s orders are part of a broader effort to cut direct emissions by 28 percent by 2020, based on 2008 figures.

Federal workers should have an easier time changing their commutes now that Congress has passed legislation that jump starts the government’s telework program. A bill approved by the House last week expands work-at-home options and requires agencies to appoint a telework manager. The Senate passed a similar bill in May. The White House said the new efforts should save millions of dollars in lost productivity during bad weather and cut down on air pollution and commuter costs.

Obama this week also launched a four-year effort to improve federal workplace safety standards by ordering agencies to reduce the number of workers who fall ill or injured on the job.

By the end of fiscal 2014, the president wants agencies to cut the total number of injury and illness cases and the amount of time it takes to analyze the incidents. Agencies also must speed up an employees’ return to the workplace and process workers’ compensation claims quicker.

Federal employees filed more than 79,000 new claims and received more than $1.6 billion in workers’ compensation payments in fiscal 2009, according to the White House. The figures do not include the U.S. Postal Service.

“Many of these work-related injuries and illnesses are preventable, and executive departments and agencies can and should do even more to improve workplace safety and health, reduce the financial burden of injury on taxpayers, and relieve unnecessary suffering by workers and their families,” Obama said in a memo issued Monday.

Each agency will have to foot the bill for any changes, Obama said. The memo preceded a House subcommittee hearing scheduled for Wednesday about how agencies are preventing and dealing with workplace injuries.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | July 20, 2010; 2:14 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Workplace Issues  
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It will never happen with this kind of tinkering. Fire half the bureaucrats now and that will make a difference.

Posted by: jiji1 | July 20, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Let Obama ride MetroFAIL a few times, and he'll realize why so many federal workers drive to work.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | July 20, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the President's signed order; there are a lot of ways the government can cut energy waste. However, even though I take the metro (only because of the govt. subsidy), it is a national disgrace. Trains are broken, packed like cattle cars, A/C's don't work, always delays, etc. How about they give more funds to updating and improving metro. Then maybe people would actually want to ride on Metro.

Posted by: Flyers21 | July 20, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a government employee, but I do shift work. Work hours 6am to 6pm and 6pm to 6am here in Washington DC metro it would be nice if they operate the metro system 24/7 to have more people to commute. Thanks

Posted by: Robert72 | July 20, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Easy for the President to demand that the rest of us telework, his office is IN his house! I'd love to leave the car at home and ride a bike or take public transportation, but I'm one of those many people in the Post's recent "National Enquirer" style articles on Top Secret America who can't work from home, and unless the President wants to move my agency closer to my house (30+ miles each way, every day) or they put a Metro station near my workplace, I'm stuck driving. One hour on a good day to drive vs. more than two to take buses, Metro, and a shuttle. But my SUV's entire annual commute doesn't produce the carbon footprint of Air Force One on a single campaign jaunt or vacation.

Posted by: DMPI | July 20, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Why didn't he include teleworking from home in this memo? I'd love to work from home.

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Posted by: itkonlyyou189 | July 20, 2010 10:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm a Federal employee and I take the MARC train everyday. Ever since the problems have been "addressed" on the PENN or Camden lines, the Brunswick line has had major disruptions on multiple trips every day.
We call it M.iserable A.nd R.eally C.ramped
or M.ade A. ' C.hoice

Seriously, since MTA operates the MARC, they should provide "Supplementary Transport", have one of their buses run most of the line from at least Frederick and drop riders off at Shady Grove at least. I propose we call it MARC SX for short.

Posted by: stinkhead1 | July 21, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

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