Extra Point: LEED standards under attack

PAT - Point Against Timber?

PAT – Point Against Timber?

Timber interests would like to cut LEED out of Alabama with legislation that is moving rapidly through the legislature.

SB326 has already passed the Senate and a House committee will hold a public hearing this week. This bill, along with House companion HB457, essentially makes the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards illegal for construction and renovation of public buildings. National and state timber interests want to strip the state of access to LEED because it gives credit for timber products that are certified under the independent, third-party verified Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) rating and not the less rigorous energy and environmental sustainable certification classifications of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the American Tree Farm System.

What this fight boils down to is a single point in the LEED 110-point scale. Buildings can achieve different level of LEED certification by being constructed, and operated, in energy efficient and environmental sensitive ways. By using FSC timber in a construction project, a project could receive one point toward their LEED status. However, the LEED point scale system also awards one point for locally harvested wood. Of the 52 publicly funded LEED projects in Alabama to date, none used lumber from a FSC certified forest, but they did use wood from Alabama’s forestry industry.

The fight appears to be another case of Alabama being the testing ground for nationally coordinated efforts to weaken energy efficiency efforts and drive up costs for ratepayers. Additionally, Governor Robert Bentley Friday made much of the debate over the issue moot when he issued Executive Order 39 that opened up public building construction to the other two timber certification classifications without banning FSC and LEED.

Architects, construction and building interests, and conservationists across the state expect to speak at the public hearing Wednesday to oppose SB326.

In other news, the Alabama Land Bank bill, which had stalled in the Senate, was revised and passed the Senate last week. This bill will make it easier for localities to assemble property for redevelopment.

Also, on the heels of the oil pipeline spill in Arkansas, Senators Tom Whatley and Cam Ward are proposing raising state fines for oil and gas pipeline leaks to match the federal level. Under their legislation, civil penalties could be levied at a maximum of $200,000 a day per violation, and no more than $2 million total – up from $10,000 and $500,000, respectively, in the current law.

You can follow legislation related to the environment each week on Conservation Alabama’s Hot List at conservationalabama.org.

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