Chemical Industry Touts Anti-LEED Language in Appropriations Bill
The American High-Performance Buildings Coalition (AHPBC) is touting the passage of language in a federal appropriations bill that it believes will exclude the LEED Rating System from federal government use. AHPBC was formed by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and other trade organizations to support green building standards developed through the ANSI or ISO consensus process (see The New Anti-LEED?).
The 2014 U.S. House Appropriations bill, recently completed in committee, includes language that would limit spending on federal building projects to those adhering to “voluntary consensus standards, as that term is defined in Office of Management and Budget [OMB] Circular A-119.”
No problem, says USGBC
“If this is the definition of consensus that the American Chemistry Council is willing to support, then we can take this language to the Senate for the Shaheen-Portman bill,” says Lane Burt, director of policy strategy at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).
Shaheen-Portman is a popular energy bill that has been attracting controversial amendments, including one amendment forthcoming from Senator Mary Landrieu (D–Louisiana) that would restrict use of LEED based on its purported lack of consensus in development. “The language is not language that we oppose. We have been determined to be in compliance” with OMB Circular A-119, he told LEEDuser. “I’m a little surprised.” (For background, see Chemical Industry Attacks LEED: We Check the Facts.)
The OMB circular defines consensus standard as “general agreement, but not necessarily unanimity” that “includes a process for attempting to resolve objections by interested parties, as long as all comments have been fairly considered, each objector is advised of the disposition of his or her objection(s) and the reasons why, and the consensus body members are given an opportunity to change their votes after reviewing the comments.
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Not so fast, says AHPBC
“USGBC’s current process is not a full consensus process,” counters AHPBC’s Scott Openshaw. “It’s partial, or incomplete. It does not follow internationally recognized procedures for consensus standard development.”
Stating that “ANSI would be a good start,” Openshaw accused USGBC of not giving all comments fair consideration. “Numerous stakeholders took the time to provide thoughtful, supported technical comments, and the record fails to demonstrate they were given suitable technical consideration by informed experts,” he told us. “Consensus development demands not just that stakeholder comments be received, or even responded to. There must be an effort to resolve the comment, and this effort must be made by a properly balanced and technically expert group of the stakeholders themselves. USGBC does not do this.”
“I would just point to the redline drafts and all the changes that have happened in those credits,” says Burt, referring to the various drafts of LEED version 4 and that appeared through its public comment periods, which culminated recently in a member vote to approve the new LEED v4 rating system. “We have been the beneficiaries of a lot of stakeholder engagement on those credits, and the credits are far better for it. The product we arrived at is something that a lot of people can get behind.”
As a specific example relevant to the chemical industry, Burt pointed to the shift from a chemical “red list” in the original drafts of LEED v4 to a “green list” in the final draft that was approved. “It’s been very much an iterative process, and that’s why we feel very confident in the product as it’s come to be,” he added.
Despite these objections, it’s unclear what the ramifications of the consensus language may be if it is retained when the bill comes to the House floor later this summer, or how it would mesh with Senate legislation. What is increasingly clear, however, is that AHPBC is throwing its weight against LEED, and with the competing Green Globes rating system recently getting more serious about its ANSI accreditation, it would appear to be positioned to receive the support of AHPBC and its allies: the ACC and its members.
What do you think of the machinations? What is the role of consensus in green rating systems, and who should define that?