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Posted at 3:09 PM ET, 01/25/2011

Federal agencies running up big utility bills (Video)

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 4:53 p.m. ET
Big kudos to WUSA-TV reporter Andrea McCarren, who works the late shift and noticed that most large federal buildings in downtown Washington leave the lights on after hours.

In a report that aired Monday night, McCarren kept tabs on the electricity habits of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy and Transportation.

Using Freedom of Information Act requests, she discovered that most of the departments paid at least $200,000 monthly in utility costs.

A Labor Department utility bill topped $1 million last July. The Department of Health and Human Services paid a bill last August for $799,000.

To help prove her point, two buildings housing the Federal Aviation Administration -- which is part of the Transportation Department -- were almost completely illuminated behind McCarren as she reported live on Monday night.

The buildings are owned and operated by the General Services Administration, according to a DOT spokeswoman. The Transportation headquarters a few blocks away uses a green roof to help heat and cool the building and a lighting system that is programmed to shut off on nights and weekends, she said.

Either way, it's a great bit of accountability journalism that will get tongues wagging. Watch her full report in the video above.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 25, 2011; 3:09 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Oversight  
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What about the energy wasted on those sound effects?

Posted by: daveeburke | January 25, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

They also leave their computers on 24-7. It's the little people who need to save energy.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | January 25, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

This is why I find government employees foul. They KNOW that every single item they use/touch at their office is paid for by tax payer money, yet they are careless!! It's not their money, so why try to be good financial stewards of the American people?? Heinous.

Posted by: sigmagrrl | January 25, 2011 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Ummm, because they don't care. Get a grip.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | January 25, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

good report, thanks.

Posted by: 1citizen | January 25, 2011 5:42 PM | Report abuse

good report, thanks.

Posted by: 1citizen | January 25, 2011 5:44 PM | Report abuse

People NOT familiar with best practices for large commercial facilities don't realize that lighting energy is just one factor for cost effective/efficient operation of a facility system. For instance, in the case of fluorescent lighting systems, it is more cost effective to minimize the number of times fluorescent lighting systems are turned on and off over the life of the system (unless the building is unoccupied for long periods of time). This actually maximizes the life of all those individual lamps, and their ballasts, within each of those thousands of fixtures; thereby, minimizing replacement costs which could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Depending on the generation of the lighting system technology installed in these facilities, it may actually be more cost effective to determine a lighting system retrofit strategy that can be integrated with the facility management or capital budget plan ensuring the implementation of current technologies that cost effectively contribute to the life cycle management of all associated facility costs.

Also, although not as apparent to non-occupants of the buildings in question, these buildings may also turn off their cooling systems (or limit the operation of heating systems during colder seasons) during non-use hours. Further, more energy efficient lighting systems dissipate in less heat to the space of occupancy within the building which contributes to energy conservation for cooling. In the DC region, the impact of reduced heat dissipation, due to more efficient lighting, is minimal on the demand for more heating in the cold season. The delivery of heat to a space may be compensated by varying rate of heated air flow. Or, the savings generated by some of the aforementioned energy conservation measures (ECM) can be reinvested in other ECMs, such as insulation, energy efficient windows, mitigating outside air infiltration, etc. All in all, this helps us to see that "lighting" is not the only factor to take into account for cost effective life cycle faclility management.

Posted by: tobontob | January 25, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse

I turned off three light switches in EPA on Saturday that had been left on Friday night.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | January 26, 2011 8:42 AM | Report abuse

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