by Sen. Doug Whitsett
The US Green Building Council is a non-profit, non-government tax exempt organization that claims to promote sustainability in how buildings are designed, built and operated. The Council created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards for the construction of sustainable green buildings.
All across the nation, LEED standards are coming under long-overdue critical evaluation. People are beginning to understand that the regulations that mandate LEED standards in public construction projects represent little more than social engineering. The arbitrary LEED preferences, designed by the Council, are being enforced in the construction of schools, hotels, offices and government buildings throughout America.
There are a number of problems with LEED standards. Not least, green building marketers, along with complicit bureaucrats, are being allowed to override the knowledge and interests of those who actually know how to manage forestland. Most objectionable is the Council’s rejection of most of Oregon’s forest resources for points in LEED’s scoring driven system.
Oregon has nearly 30 million acres of forestland. Less than one half of one percent of that forestland, about 137,000 acres, is recognized as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council. The LEED standard only deems timber “certified” by the Forest Stewardship Council as sustainable.
Lumber milled from forest products that are not ‘certified” are very difficult to use in LEED building projects. Obviously, this arbitrary designation severely limits the amount of Oregon timber eligible for the “credits” that enable a business to participate in a LEED construction project. The cost of LEED buildings can only be driven sharply higher by this artificial limiting of “certified” building supplies.
The American Tree Farm System and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative are alternative sustainability organizations. Both organizations classify approximately 30 times more Oregon forestland as being sustainable than the Forest Stewardship Council. A great deal more affordable Oregon lumber could be used in “green” building projects if these organizations were treated equally by LEED standards.
The production costs for Oregon tree farmers and the businesses that sell wood products are dependent upon the terrain and the climate where they operate. Cost effective forest management in western Oregon is significantly different than on the high desert eastern Oregon plateau. Their costs are also driven by the size of their budgets and the shifting preferences of their customers. Due to these numerous variables, many Oregon companies would benefit from a more flexible regulatory framework than the current LEED standard.
EconSTATS, a research group located at George Mason University, has estimated the costs of forcing state landowners to manage their land according to the Forest Stewardship Council standards. They concluded the mandates cost as many as 31,000 jobs.
That is not surprising. A one-size-fits-all solution does not work in any industry. It certainly does not fit the forest products industry that grows timber under all kinds of geographical and climatic conditions.
Many state and national organizations, including Oregon AFL-CIO, Oregon Farm Bureau, and National Association of State Foresters, are “on the record” calling for equal recognition of certified timber products. The fact that the US Green Building Council has ignored them all certainly suggests that the organization may have a different agenda.
Their agenda appears to be focused on restricting the amount of harvestable timber available for LEED projects while at the same time “certifying” the product of selected growers. Their actions undoubtedly both intensify the demand and improve the prices for their “certified” products.
LEED appears to arbitrarily select winners and losers, being little more than a government sanctioned market manipulation program. Citizens should recognize the damage this social engineering scheme is causing and encourage elected leaders to reject the Council’s LEED standards.
Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls