This is how Obama cuts waste? What happened to all that money to “green federal buildings?”
Night after night, year after year, this nightside reporter observed lights left on in federal government buildings. So I decided to see just how much taxpayers were spending to keep empty buildings illuminated.
For several months, we kept track of the lights left on in a dozen federal buildings, including the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation and Energy always checking after 10 p.m., each on at least six occasions.
“Turn the lights off. That’s what I do anyway. That’s how I save money,” said one visitor from North Dakota.
Just how much are the federal agencies electricity bills costing you, the taxpayer? First, using the Freedom of Information Act, we requested six months of utility bills for the headquarters buildings of more than a dozen agencies. Then, we asked taxpayers to estimate the price of one month in one building.
‘Whew. $3,000 a month?” one woman estimated.
“$5,000 a month?” guessed a young man from New Jersey.
“Monthly? $5-10,000,” said a man from Virginia.
The low end is about $200,000 a month. The high end more than a million. One month’s electricity bill at the Department of Labor topped a MILLION dollars. That was a bill paid in July of last year. The month before, the department paid a bill of nearly $700,000. And utility costs of that magnitude are not unusual.
“Whoooo. That’s too much!” exclaimed a taxpayer.
“Maybe the perception is, they want to tell the American people that we’re always on,” speculated another.
The Department of Health and Human Services paid a bill last August of $799,000 for a month of service.
“Oh my God. That is per month?” was one reaction.
The Department of Commerce paid a bill last June of $794,000.
“I used to work for the federal government. I know they waste tax dollars. Do it every day,” said a man in DC.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) told us it has sensors to turn off the lights after hours, but on all our visits, most of the lights were on. And records provided to us by DOT show the Department routinely was charged late fees, up to $800.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a dollar or $700. The fact that there are any late payments indicates mismanagement,” said Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste.
“Turning off the lights is about the simplest way that the government can save money. There is no excuse not to do this on a regular basis,” said Schatz.