Of all the voices expected to weigh in on the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) continued insistence on monopolizing forest certification standards, some onlookers may be surprised at the most recent entrant into the fray.
In a Mother Nature Network opinion editorial, Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell offered hearty praise for governors who have recently taken a stand for fairness in forest certification. Leavell, a Georgia resident, cited Peach State Gov. Nathan Deal’s recent executive order that future state building projects are required to “recognize all forest certifications equally” for inspiring the musician's wonkish praise.
One can hardly blame him for commending Deal for such an action. The move spelled the end of Georgia’s adherence to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) in regards to green building standards. LEED only recognizes one form of certification, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and is promoting monopoly in an area that should be ripe for domestic competition.
Less than a quarter of all American timberland is FSC certified, and that number shrivels to an even dimmer one percent in Georgia alone. Pair that with the fact that 24 of the state’s 37 million acres are timberland fit for commercial use, and the government forced exclusion of competition becomes a picture all too clear. Governor Deal’s executive order has now opened the doors to lands certified by standards “like Sustainable Forestry Initiative and American Tree Farm System” and will result in better utilization of resources native to Georgia.
As Leavell notes, “when we are fighting to preserve and create employment in the United States, this order protects and develops jobs in Georgia’s forest industry.” New jobs will result from the decision to allow competition while strengthening the standards themselves. Leavell points out knowing “first-hand the passion that Georgia’s forest landowners have for the land, as well as the responsible forest management practices … to ensure healthy, vibrant and productive forests for generations to come.”
Clearly, the measure taken by Governor Deal is a win-win situation for jobs, sustainability and responsible use of resources in his home state.
The governor is not alone, either. Maine Gov. Paul LePage recently issued an executive order along many of the same lines. Fourteen other governors and 89 members of Congress “representing districts with significant rural or forestry interests have sent letters to the USGBC urging changes to the treatment of forest products under LEED, including recognition of SFI and other credible certification standards.”
Yet the USGBC has given no indication that they intend to back down from giving sole recognition to an unfair standard. They instead appear content to aid monopolies driven by a political agenda, not science, fairness or regard for American jobs.
Mind you, some studies have estimated that LEED certified buildings use up to 25 to 30 percent more energy than those that recognize other standards. At best, they use the same amount. Of course, the idea of actually promoting responsible competition falls by the wayside when the Chair of LEED is on the record with statements saying that “buildings are ‘far and away’ the worst thing humans do to the environment.”
Even worse, LEED’s problems don’t end with timber certification; its standards spread the unfairness into the chemical aspect of green building certification, too. Discontent with simply limiting competition and improvement, USGBC’s most recent dive into updating LEED included limitations on the amount of shatter-resistant glass that can be present in a federal building.
It’s a rare occurrence for a musician of Rolling Stones-level fame to offer praise of a southern governor, but in the case of the federal government and USGBC’s LEED monopoly, it seems even rarer that common-sense is exercised.