TreeHugger has covered how the Sustainable Forest Initiative is trying to gut LEED by getting the Federal Government to drop it; (see LEED-Bashing: SFI Couldn't Join LEED, So Now It Is Out To Destroy It.) Now the Plastics industry is piling on, worried about LEED 2012's imagined restrictions on PVC. A "bi-partisan" group of congressmen have written a letter to the GSA about LEED:
We are deeply concerned that the LEED rating system is becoming a tool to punish chemical companies and plastics makers and spread misinformation about materials that have been at the forefront of improving environmental performance—and even occupant safety—and in buildings. This transformation into an anti-chemical system runs counter to the government’s objectives of increasing energy efficiency and utilizes a European standard called REACH. US manufacturers have no ability to participate in the development. LEED 2012 not only threatens jobs, it will almost certainly cost taxpayers money. The arbitrary chemical restrictions in the two proposed credits could affect many energy-efficient construction products, such as insulation, roofing, wiring and energy-efficient windows, putting a further strain on already tight federal budgets.
Yes, the evil European REACH must never reach America's shores; as Chemist Christine notes, the REACH program requires that " every chemical used in quantities over one ton must be proven to be safe for human health and the environment by the chemical companies that profit from that chemical. If a chemical has risks, the industry must prove that the benefits to society outweigh the risks, which must also be carefully controlled."
The chemical industry would never put up with that. That's why they just wrote a letter to the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, which is looking at the Science of Green Rating Systems in the continuing Republican attack on LEED and green building. They write:
Technical standards must be developed and evaluated on their technical merits, and this means based on scientific data. A technical standard that is not basedon technical data fails on delivery and is unusable. USGBC must adopt true science basedconsensus approaches or risk the federal government being unable to rely upon LEED. In our view, any portion of LEED 2012 that has been developed where there is a process failure – including a failure to fully and fairly consider science-based input from the signatories to thisletter – cannot be adopted by a federal agency.
But of course, REACH, which is rigidly scientific, is not to be considered at all. Meanwhile, David Scott at Ohio Green Building Law notes that LEED doesn't prohibit vinyl at all:
The latest draft of LEED 2012 doesn’t “eliminate” any of the chemicals or products referenced in the letter. Rather, the credit at issue (“Avoidance of Chemicals of Concern”) has already been modified to incentivize use of less harmful products and materials; it does not punish or “eliminate” anything.
It does, however, give up to two points for having building products that comply with REACH, which is not unreasonable at all; if the American government isn't going to insist that real scientific research be done to determine which chemicals are safe or not, you go where the data are.
The signatories of the letter reads like a Who's Who of every vinyl and plastic lobbyist in the Country:
Center For Environmental Innovation in Roofing
National Association of Manufacturers
American Coatings Association
Resilient Floor Covering Institute
The Vinyl Institute
The Vinyl Siding Institute
The Vinyl Building Coalition
The Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association
Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates
Flexible Vinyl Alliance
The Canadian Plastics Industry Association
EPDM Roofing Association
Polyisocyanurate Insulation Manufacturers Association
SPI: The Plastics Industry Trade Association
The Adhesive and Sealant Council
The American Chemistry Council
American Architectural Manufacturers Association
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Single Ply Roofing Institute
Chemical Fabrics And Film Association
Unfortunately, these industries employ a lot of people and spend a lot of money buying their politicians. They don't want the idea of REACH to touch these shores. They are bigger and more powerful than their buddies in the lumber biz, and will twist arms and stuff pockets of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Two years ago, TreeHugger's Meg O'Neill and I interviewed Henrik Selin at a Metcalf Institute seminar about regulation of chemicals in America. He thinks we have to be more precautionary and less reactionary, which is what REACH is all about. It was never shown on TreeHugger at the time but seems really appropriate now.