Greenwire: GSA sustainability chief fired amid fallout over luxury conference
April 4, 2012
Posted by Katie Brown Katie_Brown@epw.senate.gov
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GSA sustainability chief fired amid fallout over luxury conference
John McArdle, E&E reporter
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The Obama administration's audacious federal sustainability effort suffered a setback yesterday when a key federal official who had been tapped to help lead the initiative was fired from his General Services Administration post amid the fallout over a glitzy training conference that has become a symbol of government waste.
Until his firing yesterday, Stephen Leeds had served as a senior counselor to the now former administrator, Martha Johnson.
Johnson submitted her resignation yesterday just before the release of a scathing inspector general report that detailed the extravagance of the $823,000 conference, which took place at a luxury resort and spa just outside Las Vegas in October 2010 (Greenwire, April 2).
As part of his duties, Leeds served as GSA's senior sustainability officer, a position that each agency was required to appoint after President Obama outlined federal sustainability goals in October 2009. That executive order set targets for reducing federal greenhouse gas emissions and increasing efficiency, with an overall aim of making the federal government a leader in adopting sustainability practices and products and motivating the private sector to adopt similar practices.
Leeds' position at GSA -- which is better-positioned than any other agency to affect sustainability across the federal government -- made him a high-profile face of the effort.
As the agency charged with managing federal assets, GSA handles 350 million square feet of buildings, operates 20,000 vehicles and buys more than 12 million products every year. The agency directed about $5.8 billion in spending from the 2009 stimulus law to make its vehicles and buildings more sustainable, and Leeds spearheaded the effort to ensure all new federal buildings will be at least Gold certified by the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
According to his official biography that was still posted on GSA's website as of this morning, Leeds was charged with working with federal agencies "to help them integrate sustainability throughout their agencies and achieve their sustainability goals. GSA is leading the government's actions to green its supply chain and to increase the effectiveness of buildings to support the government's missions with lowered greenhouse gas emissions."
Leeds has been a highly sought speaker on federal sustainability efforts and was scheduled to speak just last week at the 2012 Energy Efficiency Global Forum.
While Johnson has been replaced by Treasury Department Assistant Secretary Dan Tangherlini, no decision has been made on who will replace Leeds as head of GSA's sustainability program.
A spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, which is coordinating the executive order, did not respond to a request for comment this morning.
Along with Leeds, the GSA public buildings services chief was fired yesterday over the report, and four regional commissioners have been placed on leave.