US Chamber, Manufacturers to Congress: Drop Green Building Program

US Chamber, Manufacturers to Congress: Drop Green Building Program

A group of industry heavyweights have asked a top House Republican to put the breaks on the federal government’s likely adoption of new green building standards, a letter obtained by Breitbart News shows.

After a Congressional hearing last week examining the science behind green building rating systems, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and the American Chemistry Council asked Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) to reject the “fatally flawed” amendments to the U.S. Green Business Council’s green building program, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which government bureaucrats require all new federal properties meet. In total, forty-five state governments and 100 cities have likewise mandated LEED compliance for government properties.

“We share a deep concern that the USGBC’s latest iteration of LEED has been developed out of step with federal government criteria, which includes process protections such as a true consensus-based approach,” the groups, which number twenty in total, wrote. “Our strong view is that the current third draft of LEED 2012 is fatally flawed and must go back to the drawing board with true consensus process, or be rejected by federal agencies.”

Broun, who chairs the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee for the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, expressed his own concerns over the program after one witness, an academic who has studied the science of green building, critiqued its environmental impact.

“My analysis of the LEED building energy consumption data … shows that LEED-certified commercial buildings use about the same amount of primary energy as their conventional counterparts,” Oberlin College professor of physics John Scofield testified. “There then appears to be no scientific basis for institutions such as colleges, universities or the federal government to require LEED certification.”

Scofield’s study of LEED earned notoriety in 2009, after a prominent New York energy consultant alleged LEED-certified buildings consumed 29 percent more energy than non-LEED certified buildings.

A lightning rod for controversy in recent years, LEED’s critics complain the amendments to the program have been informed by a radical environmental agenda rather than hard science.

“Only the federal government would anoint as building certification go-to guy a man man who once lamented that ‘buildings are literally the worst thing that humans do to the planet,'” a LEED watchdog told Capitol Confidential, referencing the program’s founder and famed environmentalist, Robert Watson. “But the real crisis for government and industry is that this radical temperament has begun shaping the program in ways that don’t match environmental cause.”

As BigGovernment reported last week, the proposed amendments to LEED, if adopted, would outright ban the use of PVC plastic, the third-most commonly produced plastic worldwide.

But critics of the program are quick to note the anti-PVC bent is not the only element of the program wherein beuracrats would kowtow to environmentalists. LEED also forbids sourcing timber from over three-fourths of American certified forests.

Both rules were points of contention in last week’s Congressional hearing.

“Recent proposed changes to LEED for 2012 also appear to penalize some common building materials with little to no basis in science, such as PVC piping,” Rep. Broun said. “I’m not sure why PVC piping in warehouse is such a concern. Shouldn’t we instead be focusing on saving taxpayer dollars rather than social engineering?”

Beyond the program’s certification hurdles against domestic timber and plastic, its coziness with the federal government was criticized by Broun, who questioned why the Government Services Administration (GSA) had designated LEED the primary program when others, like Green Globes, exist.

Ward Hubbel, president of a competing certification program that administers Green Globes, was particularly biting in his criticism at the hearing.

“It’s really going to depend on whether GSA can come around to the reality that LEED is not the indisputable truth of the universe,” he said. “[W]e do not believe there is a level playing field with regard to green building certification across the federal sector.”

“With LEED’s environmental impact in question and it’s radical environmental agenda laid bare, the only question remains is why does the federal government still entertain the program?” CapCon’s source asked.

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