Lawmaker decries green wood standards

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Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) wants the federal government to make it easier for agencies to have a choice of woods to use to build new buildings.

He says that competition among sustainable wood certification systems would be a boon for the economy and help create jobs. Increasing regulation, on the other hand, just sends business away from private forest owners and into other countries.

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“As we start to regulate it more, what happens is those jobs and that product goes where? It goes abroad,” Meadows said at an event on Tuesday sponsored by George Mason University.

Blanche Lincoln, a former Democratic senator from Arkansas who now works for the National Federal of Independent Business, added that limiting rules have an impact on the millions of owners and workers at small forests.

“They’re people who will be hurt by the kind of regulations that will be constricting commerce in our timber market,” she said.

The General Services Administration recommends new or substantially renovated buildings use either the LEED or Green Globe building sustainability programs. 

The U.S. Green Building Council, which oversees the LEED program, endorses wood certified by the independent nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council, which is also backed by conservation groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.

But the Forest Stewardship Council is just one of dozens of organizations to certify that wood comes from sustainably managed forests. Certified wood comes with a seal of approval similar to the icon stamped on organic foods.

Ignoring wood certified by other organizations, Meadows said, allows for a de facto monopoly.

“We’ve got to look at trying to make sure that there’s a private sector certification process,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that there’s competition in that.”

The Green Globes sustainability system recognizes three different wood certifications.

Meadows added that the current system makes it harder for consumers and governments to buy local wood products, which is what happened for a government building recently built in his North Carolina congressional district.

“Here was a public building, paid for by federal tax dollars, that ended up importing forest products from abroad to build a federal building in my district that was just north of Asheville,” he said.  

-- This story was updated to correct the advice for federal agencies at 5:05 p.m. and at 11:50 a.m. on Nov. 13. 

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