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In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal last year used an executive order to ban state government construction projects from seeking LEED certification. Alabama, Maine and Mississippi also enacted bans, while a similar measure has passed the North Carolina House and awaits a Senate vote. South Carolina stopped short of prohibiting LEED certification, instead banning state projects from earning points for sustainable wood. Florida passed a bill, awaiting the governor’s signature, requiring use of local wood when possible.
Deal used a speech to the Southern Group of State Foresters meeting in Savannah last week to urge foresters from government agencies across the Southeast to push the issue with their own governors back home.
“Prior to my executive order, some 99 percent of Georgia’s forests were unfairly excluded from consideration as being an appropriate green material for building,” Deal told the group.
The state backlash comes as LEED stakeholders are voting this month on a revised version of its green-building standards, which are voluntary but have become increasingly desirable for private companies and government agencies looking to burnish their environmental credentials.
The Green Building Council says the ruckus has been drummed up by industry groups trying to pressure it into giving LEED sustainability credits for wood that hasn’t earned them. The push is being led by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or SFI, which certifies more than 60 million acres of U.S. timberland including forests owned by corporate giants such as Weyerhaeuser and Rayonier. The group and its standards were created by the timber industry, though SFI says it’s been independently governed for the past decade.