Not for the first time, the US Chamber of Commerce is waving goodbye to members over its anti-environmental agenda.
Skanska USA, subsidiary of the Swedish-based construction firm, resigned from the Chamber of Commerce to protest the organization's backing of a chemical industry-led initiative to effectively ban the future use of LEED certification for government buildings.
The initiative is linked to lobbying efforts by the chemical industry around the Shaheen-Portman Energy Efficiency Bill (S. 761). Skanska says Chamber lobbying threatens to “halt years of progress in energy-efficient and environmentally responsible construction”.
The Chamber is supporting the American High-Performance Building Coalition (AHPBC), a chemical industry lobbying organization that opposes the implementation of a stronger LEED certification program (LEEDv4), which encourages transparency in reporting the chemical composition of building materials.
The AHPBC is advocating for an amendment to S. 761 which will effectively ban the use of LEED certification by the government - currently the certification system of choice.
Instead, they want a less stringent industry-run system, Green Globes.
"I'm not crazy about leaving the Chamber. But on this one, it's just so wrong, I can't see us being part of it anymore," Mike McNally, president and CEO of Skanska USA says in a Wall Street Journal blog post.
Every five years, the US General Services Administration (GSA) is required to review the certification standards it uses to measure building efficiency. GSA, which governs all federal buildings, has required basic LEED certification since 2003 and LEED-Gold since 2010.
The Chamber of Commerce says: "With thousands of members, disagreements about specific issues are inevitable." It also defends its membership of the American High-Performance Buildings Coalition, which it says is not "inconsistent with our support of building efficiency, or even of LEED standards in the future."
However, McNally tells the WSJ: “There's never going to be a consensus. You'd still have asbestos in buildings, you'd still have lead paint in buildings, because God forbid you should disadvantage the lead-paint business."
Skansa is one of the new tenants in NYC's Empire State Building, which has both LEED and Energy Star certifications.
In 2009, a bunch of companies took issue with the Chamber's opposition to climate change legislation. Nike, Apple and a number of utilities left over that. As a puppet for Big Oil, they peddle climate change denial, the tar sands pipeline, and have fought California's landmark greenhouse gas standards for cars.
Skanska says the LEED program has helped grow the green building industry to a point where it contributes more than $554 billion to the US economy, and creates more than 7.9 million jobs a year.