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Timber industry goes after green LEED certification

The timber industry is challenging the sustainable forestry certification of the LEED green-building program state by state.

Green building is one of the world's fastest-growing industries. The program known as LEED certifies a million and a half square feet of building space every day. But in North Carolina lawmakers are considering a bill today that would ban the use of LEED on public projects.

A LEED-certified building can get up to 110 points. Two have to do with wood -- whether it's grown locally and sustainably. In North Carolina, few timber operations have the certification LEED requires.

Rita Hite, with the American Forest Foundation, says LEED standards are designed for industrial operations.

"Small land-owners don't necessarily find it cost effective to participate in one of the larger industrial standards," Hite says.

So the industry wants the state to end LEED certification of public buildings.

The group that developed LEED -- the U.S. Green Building Council -- defends its tough standard.

"The reason we don't recognize all certification standards equally is because they're not equal," says Lane Burt, the council's policy director. "A candy with a third less sugar is still not a health food."

The timber industry is on the offensive in other states, too. Florida and Mississippi have similar bills. And the governors of Maine and Georgia have already banned state projects from using LEED standards.

Correction: The original article misstated the name of the U.S. Green Building Council and the surname of a representative of the American Forest Foundation. She is Rita Hite. The text has been corrected.

The article also includes an incomplete reference to Weyerhaeuser. The timber company is certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, but not by the Forest Stewardship Council. The council's certification is the only one accepted by the LEED program.

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